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The greedy entertainment industry has taken enough from users

Column Bye bye, buying
Fri Jan 27 2012, 13:17

davenealI HAVE COME TO A DECISION. The entertainment industry has had just about as much money out of me as it is ever going to get.

It has milked me as long as I can remember and now that we should be getting on more socially thanks to the internet, it is starting to make me feel like a criminal and a thief, which I most certainly am not, and blaming the internet for its woes.

I must have invested £250 in the film Reservoir Dogs. It came out when I was at university, so I saw it at least three times at midnight showings. I bought a tee shirt, posters, the soundtrack, an ex-rental copy, and then I bought the VHS tape. Then I bought a special edition VHS tape with goodies like a flick comb. I thought I was done with investing in Reservoir Dogs.

But then DVD happened, and I had to buy it on that. Then they released new versions with sleeves that represented your favourite character, so I bought one of those. Now it is on Blu-ray, and guess what? I can't even type it, it makes me so sick.

Has the company that owns that film had enough out of me yet? Well I don't know. It probably doesn't think so. Perhaps there will be a 3D version too that I will be compelled to buy. Maybe a 20 year anniversary release, or a 30 year. Maybe I will buy those too.

I wonder what would happen if, while surrounded by all these purchased copies and versions, I was found to have downloaded a copy. I don't know why. Maybe I just forgot I had it. After all, Reservoir Dogs is not the only film I like, and its DVDs are not the only ones I own.

I wouldn't want to imagine what I have invested in media over the years, and I wouldn't want to calculate how much of it I don't watch, use, or listen to anymore. But whatever I have spent, no matter how many times I spent £20 to see a film at the cinema that I would pay £30 to unsee, and no matter how much merchandise I have bought, it will never be enough for the copyright holders.

Agreements like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), proposed legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US, and the UK's Digital Economy Act (DEA) aim to stamp all over people who consume media, through a variety of means, and drag other users and other material into the copyright holders' nets. And they don't seem to care about that at all. What's the phrase? Collateral damage?

Web abuse is here, and it is rife, but it is the copyright holders, politicians and lobbyists that are behind it. These laws that they want to impose on us aren't just dirty, they are filthy. They fling open doors to web site blocking, communications shutdowns, censorship, sadistic sentencing and punishments, and bend over and extradite government decisions.

Look at Gary McKinnon's case. Ten years in the wilderness while successive politicians pretend that they might have the balls to stand up to the US and its trumped-up charges and deny it the prize it is so determined to get.

And Richard O'Dwyer, who merely made a web page full of links and faces ten years in prison in America, despite not actually hosting content or doing anything at all in that country. This is wrong.

The United States, and the UK government to a lesser extent - and just because it does everything to a lesser extent - need to stop peeing on their people's cornflakes and kicking in their doors just because powerful media companies have failed to adapt to new business models and fear that the profits they have milked from consumers like me for years might be drying up.

Well, they are drying up, and it is thanks to the hand that fed them that they are. Who wants to take anything from one hand, while the other hand is hovering just behind your ear waiting to smack you for stepping over an ever-moving line? Not me.

To borrow a line from the film Network, which thanks to £6 a month I can watch on Netflix, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

You can take your DVDs and your CDs and stuff your tee shirts, USB keys and figurines. I'm out of your game and I'm not going to feed you anymore, and I don't think that I am alone here either.

Media firms have had it too good for too long. The movement that sprung up in opposition to SOPA shows that we can stop these things - or at least subject them to more scrutiny - and that momentum must grow. µ


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