Don't miss
  • 1,901
  • 5,500
  • 5,766
  • 107

Censorship, IPs’ and Business

By on July 31, 2011

Following the BT/Newbinz decision, an argument about censorship, IP rights and business models broke out on Twitter. The discussion is presented here as a single post, collated with storify.

Weighing in on the debate featured here are: Miles Jacobson, studio director at Sports Interactive (@milessi); Ed Fear, producer and writer at Curve Studios (@edfear); Michael French, editor-in-chief of MCV and Develop (@Michael_French); Rob Fahey of GamesIndustry.biz (@robfahey); Steve Gaffney (@sdgaffney); GamesBrief’s very own Nicholas Lovell (@nicholaslovell); game designer Tony Gowland (@FreakyZoid) and technology journalist Stuart Dredge (@stuartdredge).

MPA win high court case against BT, giving a clear path towards anti-piracy site blocking in the UK – http://bit.ly/nVIEZB
milessi
July 28, 2011
Great. Internet censorship is now here and legal in the UK. Yet another reason to emigrate.
edfear
July 28, 2011
@edfear umm. It’s been here for years Ed, for other illegal things.
milessi
July 28, 2011
Not advocating piracy, but news that movie studios are bullying (through legal action) legislation into being is not necessarily GOOD news
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French what are the negatives?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi I’m just wary: dangerous lines can get crossed when cor porations gang up on service providers and demand their own way.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@milessi it’s only been to protect the public (which I still think is wrong). now it’s to protect corporations, which is a whole new level.
edfear
July 28, 2011
@edfear Yeah – I can’t help but be uncomfortable at seeing systems introduced to fight child porn co-opted to protect business interests.
robfahey
July 28, 2011
@milessi These firms need to embrace/understand distribution, not attack the remote fringes of it.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French there are systems & guidelines that could be put in place that could stop that. It’s better that persecuting the public imho
milessi
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French embracing distribution is fine. Embracing blatant copyright infringment and IP theft not fine.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@edfear is it better to have site blocking for flagrant infringement, or persecuting the public via the DEA?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi No one’s saying they should embrace piracy or give up their rights. But money may be better spent fighting the source, not the web.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French the source IS the web, isn’t it?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi The source is the groups that distribute screeners and DVD-rips, etc., no?
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French the distribution in file sharing is those that are downloading, as they upload at the same time, no?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi But that wouldn’t happen if the file hadn’t appeared in the first place. And anyway, that’s not my issue here.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@milessi The MPA has had access to an index site cut off. That’s just denial, isn’t it? Piracy will still happen with just one aid taken out
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @milessi next logical step: total ban on public access to car boot sales and pubs
sdgaffney
July 28, 2011
@michael_french @milessi forgot the smiley there :)
sdgaffney
July 28, 2011
Plus, my annoyance with dumb corporations trying to argue with the internet isn’t helped by the fact MPA is really just MPAA.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French whilst I don’t know if this is fact, I expect this will be the first of very many cases. With many taken out, it’ll help.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi And my concern is that it’s futile – sites will keep cropping up.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French Do you have locks on your doors & windows? Or do you think that if you’re going to get broken into, it’ll happen anyway?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi Haha, oh, you know that’s not comparable.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French isn’t it? You are protecting your assets. The film studios are looking for ways to protect theirs.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi Bits versus atoms, Miles, bits versus atoms
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell little difference, Nicholas, little difference. It’s still someone’s property and livelihood.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell in the same way as if I paid you to do some research for me & then put said research online for all, you’d have an issue.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi Newzbin2 isn’t a lock/key, if we continue the metaphor, it’s the phone book or a map.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French disagree. It is the key to the lock, and they even they bung you the phone book too, and the entry in the phone book.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi @michael_french I don’t think anyone is taking issue w/ revenue protection as a concept, just that it’s dngrsly close to censorship
sdgaffney
July 28, 2011
@milessi I think you can have an issue with piracy without thinking that convicting or blocking is the way to go around it. it won’t work.
edfear
July 28, 2011
@sdgaffney but the internet is already censored for other illegal things.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@edfear what will work then, Ed? Or is “having an issue” with it but not doing anything about it acceptable to you?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi more acceptable than what has been done today? absolutely. I’d rather focus on how to harness their interest in a way that benefits
edfear
July 28, 2011
@milessi I think it has all the difference in the world. That’s why so much of my research is bespoke, client-centric consultancy
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@milessi Much of my generic, applicable to all, research I give away on the blog
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@milessi I also think that, long term, you can’t win in the bits world with atoms strategies – smart companies will out-offer you
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@milessi The “you” there was really “one”, but I didn’t want to sound like Prince Charles
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@milessi agreed, but by taking the site itself down, not by instructing ISPs to block. Neutrality of ISPs should be protected as free speech
sdgaffney
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @sdgaffney is the comments section back up and unmoderated yet, or is your employer still censoring the Internet ;)
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi @sdgaffney Er, it’s back.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @sdgaffney unmoderated? And do you allow cheat tools, Steve?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi A weak misdirection. It’s a very different point
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@sdgaffney don’t disagree but taking down sites outside of jurisdiction is the problem if people inside the jurisdiction can access
milessi
July 28, 2011
@edfear that’s marketing speak Ed – examples of how to fix the problem Hollywood have are what, exactly?
milessi
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell not unless they have the content they won’t. Content is King.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi @nicholaslovell now *that’s* marketing speak.
Michael_French
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @milessi I’ve never believed content is king. I believe Distribution is. And content that doesn’t adapt to how people …
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @milessi … to how users want to pay for it (i.e. 95% get it for free, 5% get something special, emotional, status)…
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @milessi … will not be content that survives
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @sdgaffney for the record, I’m NOT saying I agree with what has happened today, but can’t see other ways.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @sdgaffney but think the “censorship” argument is fatally flawed.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi @Michael_French @sdgaffney Bill Thompson writes well on the censorship issue (he broadly supports the ruling) http://bbc.in/oULsos
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@milessi @michael_french ultimately, this is a business problem – how do you protect revenue, without needing gov to infringe free speech?
sdgaffney
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell I disagree. It’s a very valid point in the debate as content costs to produce however it’s delivered
milessi
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell @michael_french @milessi if content isn’t important, why do you sell digital copies of your book for £99?
FreakyZoid
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell @michael_french @milessi shouldn’t you be giving it away?
FreakyZoid
July 28, 2011
@milessi I’m not surprised you disagree. But I subscribe to the theory that prices will fall to the *marginal* cost of production
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@milessi For a digital product, the marginal cost of one more copy is zero. So we will eventually see prices moving to zero
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@FreakyZoid @michael_french @milessi The model only holds when users are driven to purchase for emotional, status, personal reasons
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@FreakyZoid @michael_french @milessi It’s something I wrestle with. Current conclusion: B2B advice is premium content, not driven by status
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@FreakyZoid @michael_french @milessi I’m always trying to think of different ways to test that, though. I’m not fixed
nicholaslovell
July 28, 2011
@Michael_French @sdgaffney how is it not the same? Censorship is censorship. In both cases the censorship is to uphold the law.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell @michael_french if there’s no content, Nicholas, there will be no films to distribute.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@nicholaslovell @michael_french @milessi can I dive in? I think the worry with the movie industry is they think shutting websites is the key
stuartdredge
July 28, 2011
@stuartdredge @michael_french t’s a fair concern, but don’t see that in the current marketplace as a member of multiple on-demand services
milessi
July 28, 2011
@stuartdredge @michael_french apple tv, sky, qrocity all have similar, but large, catalogues day & date with DVD or earlier
milessi
July 28, 2011
@stuartdredge @michael_french prices are very good too – way cheaper than cinema and similar to blockbuster et al.
milessi
July 28, 2011
@milessi @michael_french but yes, agree. I just sense Hollywood is where music biz was 5yrs ago in terms of ‘sue/shutdown’ being priority
stuartdredge
July 28, 2011
@milessi @michael_french with the studios figuring out how to squeeze more money out next time round when licensing (also: Spotify) ;)
stuartdredge
July 28, 2011
@milessi @michael_french i think games industry is ahead of Hollywood though, in terms of balancing piracy-fighting with biz innovation
stuartdredge
July 28, 2011
@stuartdredge @michael_french whereas I think they want to protect their distribution models so that they can still produce quality content
milessi
July 28, 2011
@stuartdredge @michael_french much in the same way that many retailers insist on some form of copy protection for games historically
milessi
July 28, 2011

 

About Zoya Street

I’m responsible for all written content on the site. As a freelance journalist and historian, I write widely on how game design and development have changed in the past, how they will change in the future, and how that relates to society and culture as a whole. I’m working on a crowdfunded book about the Dreamcast, in which I treat three of the game-worlds it hosted as historical places. I also write at Pocketgamer.biz and The Borderhouse.
  • http://twitter.com/wonderlandblog Alice Taylor

    So-called pirates are the biggest consumers of legit content too, says HADOPI.
    http://boingboing.net/2011/07/31/french-copyright-enforcers-pirates-are-big-spenders-on-legit-content.html

  • http://twitter.com/wonderlandblog Alice Taylor

    So-called pirates are the biggest consumers of legit content too, says HADOPI.
    http://boingboing.net/2011/07/31/french-copyright-enforcers-pirates-are-big-spenders-on-legit-content.html

  • http://twitter.com/wonderlandblog Alice Taylor

    So-called pirates are the biggest consumers of legit content too, says HADOPI.
    http://boingboing.net/2011/07/31/french-copyright-enforcers-pirates-are-big-spenders-on-legit-content.html

  • JS

    A few ‘thoughts’:Some of the arguments on Twitter appear confused / conflated – I guess the medium doesn’t help.Nicholas and Michael appear to support copyright at least in principle. It follows that they must support a means of seeking some kind of redress or remedy if copyright is breached (and ultimately this will lead to some kind of ‘censorship’, whether it is state- or self-imposed), otherwise there’s no point in supporting copyright. Michael reasonably suggests the copyright-holder should “fight” the copyright-breacher.  But the MPA tried fighting Newzbin ([2010] EWHC 608 (Ch)) – Newzbin entered voluntary liquidation and Newzbin2 appeared shortly after – and the MPAA has attempted to ‘fight’ filesharing individuals, as a result earning much opprobrium but little else.  Attacking the copyright breachers does not work, so the MPA inevitably tried to attack the system that facilitates the breaches.

    I’m not entirely sure what people who oppose the ruling are supporting, here.  They support copyright.  They support redress for copyright-holders who find their copyrights have been breached.  They presumably don’t support unauthorised filesharing.  But they don’t support any means to seek redress or enforce copyright: DRM is evil, going after individual filesharers is bullying, going after filesharing sites is censorship…

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea of this kind of site blocking and I’m not sure if I support it.  But people must understand that it did not happen in vacuo - there would not be this kind of site blocking absent unauthorised filesharing of this extent and this kind.  I find it interesting that there is tacit support of the public to do what it likes with “bits” (but not “atoms”) and the wishes of rights-holders seem unimportant.

  • JS

    [It appears that DISQUS truncated my comment, although I received the full comment by email.]

    Some of the arguments on Twitter appear confused/conflated – I guess the medium doesn’t help.

    Nicholas and Michael appear to support copyright at least in principle.  It follows that they must support a means of seeking some kind of redress or remedy if copyright is breached (and ultimately this will lead to some kind of ‘censorship’, whether it is state- or self-imposed), otherwise there’s no point in supporting copyright.

    Michael reasonably suggests the copyright-holder should “fight” the copyright breacher.  But the MPA tried fighting Newzbin ([2010] EWHC 608), they won and Newzbin entered voluntary liquidation.  Something called Newzbin2 was then started.  The MPAA has attempted to ‘fight’ filesharing individuals, as a result earning much opprobrium but little else.  Attacking the copyright breachers does not work, so the MPA inevitably tried to attack the system that facilitates the breaches.

    I’m not entirely sure what people who oppose the ruling are supporting, here.  They appear to support copyright.  They presumably support redress for copyright-holders who find their copyrights have been breached.  They don’t support unauthorised filesharing.  But they don’t support any means to seek redress or enforce copyright: DRM is evil, going after individual filesharers is bullying, going after filesharing sites is censorship…

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea of this kind of site blocking and I’m not sure if I support it.  But people must understand that it did not happen in vacuo – there would not be this kind of site blocking absent unauthorised filesharing of this extent and this kind.  I find it interesting that there is tacit support of the public to do what it likes with “bits” (but not “atoms”) and the wishes of rights-holders seem unimportant.

  • JS

    [It appears that DISQUS truncated my comment, although I received the full comment by email.]

    Some of the arguments on Twitter appear confused/conflated – I guess the medium doesn’t help.

    Nicholas and Michael appear to support copyright at least in principle.  It follows that they must support a means of seeking some kind of redress or remedy if copyright is breached (and ultimately this will lead to some kind of ‘censorship’, whether it is state- or self-imposed), otherwise there’s no point in supporting copyright.

    Michael reasonably suggests the copyright-holder should “fight” the copyright breacher.  But the MPA tried fighting Newzbin ([2010] EWHC 608), they won and Newzbin entered voluntary liquidation.  Something called Newzbin2 was then started.  The MPAA has attempted to ‘fight’ filesharing individuals, as a result earning much opprobrium but little else.  Attacking the copyright breachers does not work, so the MPA inevitably tried to attack the system that facilitates the breaches.

    I’m not entirely sure what people who oppose the ruling are supporting, here.  They appear to support copyright.  They presumably support redress for copyright-holders who find their copyrights have been breached.  They don’t support unauthorised filesharing.  But they don’t support any means to seek redress or enforce copyright: DRM is evil, going after individual filesharers is bullying, going after filesharing sites is censorship…

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea of this kind of site blocking and I’m not sure if I support it.  But people must understand that it did not happen in vacuo – there would not be this kind of site blocking absent unauthorised filesharing of this extent and this kind.  I find it interesting that there is tacit support of the public to do what it likes with “bits” (but not “atoms”) and the wishes of rights-holders seem unimportant.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    Bits are fundamentally different to atoms.

    Making one more copy of a bits-based product costs essentially zero. (i.e. a music track, a book, a film, a game can be duplicated and shared digitally for eseentially zero cost).

    This is a huge opportunity. The biggest problem facing most content creators is obscurity, not piracy, and the transition to bits means that content can be distributed globally for almost nothing.

    Of course, that means that business models will need to change. The traditional media industry is resisting that change and using a range of techniques (anti-child-porn technologies, legal lobbying, aggressive lawsuits, and so on) that both strengthen the control that states and corporation exert over the web while also failing to tackle the core problem/adapt to the new opportunities.

    I believe that this is nothing about “fair” or “right”. It is about powerful corporations protecting their own interests. Fair enough: that’s what they should be doing. Only I think that this is a short-term, blinkered approach that would embrace the Web, not fear it.

    of course, I also suspect that the size of the traditional media sector is going to collapse. Enders Research estimates that when a product moves from physical to digital, revenues fall between 50% and 75%.

    No wonder the big media companies are campaigning so intensively.

  • JS

    Nicholas, I agree with you about the need to adapt, and of course bits are fundamentally different to atoms and making a digital copy costs essentially nothing – please don’t teach granny to suck eggs!  It does not mean that a rights-holder should lose (ethically speaking) his freedom to set his price and enforce his rights.

  • Miles

    It’s a shame that this being reported in this way doesn’t include some of the really interesting “side” conversations that were had, especially the one where I learnt that those subscribing to the site were paying more to do so than a LoveFilm subscription would cost, and that the users that this person knew that were on there were there to get digital copies of films in 1080p resolution (after my discussing how online film watching services offer these same content legitimately).

    As for the “bits vs atoms” argument – when bits become atoms, are they still bits? So if a digital copy of something is burnt onto a CD/DVD, is it still a bit or an atom? Or if something is printed out, does that make it a bit or an atom? Or what about 3d printing?

  • Miles

    It’s a shame that this being reported in this way doesn’t include some of the really interesting “side” conversations that were had, especially the one where I learnt that those subscribing to the site were paying more to do so than a LoveFilm subscription would cost, and that the users that this person knew that were on there were there to get digital copies of films in 1080p resolution (after my discussing how online film watching services offer these same content legitimately).

    As for the “bits vs atoms” argument – when bits become atoms, are they still bits? So if a digital copy of something is burnt onto a CD/DVD, is it still a bit or an atom? Or if something is printed out, does that make it a bit or an atom? Or what about 3d printing?

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    I didn’t see those threads, and you are right that it is interesting when people are paying pirate sites as much, or more, as legitimate sites. Those ones are definitely an odd case.

    On bits versus atoms, the key distinction is whether the ownership of one deprives another of access. So if I keep a DVD out from Blockbuster for three extra nights, that is depriving someone else of that copy. With a digital copy, no end user is being deprived of that copy. That’s the key to the argument.

    And with 3D printing, I think the issues of digital piracy are going to hit the manufacturing world. You’ll soon be able to pirate combs, and paperclips, and curtain hooks, and costume jewellery. That’s going to lead to a whole world of hurt for people who have never considered that they are in the IP business before.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    Sorry. So many people don’t get the difference between bits and atoms – and I don’t think I know you – that I didn’t know you grasped it.

    You raise an interesting point. I support copyright. I think that existing copyright holders approach to digital is limited and inflexible, and will inevitably fail. Yet if I support copyright – literally the right to prevent copies – I ought also to support the ability to enforce those rights.

    My preference is for companies to discover new ways to share their copyrighted content that distributes it for free. I find the absolutist logic that copyright holders should be enabled – nay, supported – to prevent consumers from sharing their copyrighted material uncomfortable.

    My main position - ”You aren’t going to win. Find a better battle to fight” – doesn’t sit well with my belief that you shouldn’t pass laws you can’t enforce(or in the case of copyright, if  believe in it, should we enforce it)

    Something to think harder about (and one of the reasons I love blogging – it helps you to think and to develop your ideas)

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    Sorry. So many people don’t get the difference between bits and atoms – and I don’t think I know you – that I didn’t know you grasped it.

    You raise an interesting point. I support copyright. I think that existing copyright holders approach to digital is limited and inflexible, and will inevitably fail. Yet if I support copyright – literally the right to prevent copies – I ought also to support the ability to enforce those rights.

    My preference is for companies to discover new ways to share their copyrighted content that distributes it for free. I find the absolutist logic that copyright holders should be enabled – nay, supported – to prevent consumers from sharing their copyrighted material uncomfortable.

    My main position - ”You aren’t going to win. Find a better battle to fight” – doesn’t sit well with my belief that you shouldn’t pass laws you can’t enforce(or in the case of copyright, if  believe in it, should we enforce it)

    Something to think harder about (and one of the reasons I love blogging – it helps you to think and to develop your ideas)

  • JS

    Nicholas,

    On bits versus atoms, the key distinction is whether the ownership of one deprives another of access. So if I keep a DVD out from Blockbuster for three extra nights, that is depriving someone else of that copy. With a digital copy, no end user is being deprived of that copy. That’s the key to the argument.

    Sorry, but what is “the argument” here?

  • Pingback: The Piracy Problem | edfear.com

  • http://ivan.vucica.net/ Ivan Vučica

    All I have to say on this topic: copyright holders can’t win. System can be abused. Does one want to watch the legal system, the system that exists to actually affects lives, being continuously used to limit freedoms? I don’t think anyone wants to go through life ending one day with the system pointing a sharpened spear at him.

    Piracy is bad. Is state-supported censorship and criminalization the real way to fight it? No. People will find other ways to pirate, and you’ll just end up hurting “the little guy”, as well as attract hate for your abusive actions. (See: RIAA, MPAA.)

    Offer incentives to grab a so-called “genuine” copy of the movie, game, et cetera. Reduce the incentive to pirate content by not putting forced advertising on DVD and by offering content world-wide instead of limiting it by market. Reduce the price to make buying the game more attractive than the hassle of finding a pirated copy with a working crack.

    I’d love being able to buy some sci-fi series on, for example, iTunes. That’s not possible in Croatia, however — at least not in 2011. So if I want to watch Star Trek, where do I get it?

    Bringing the piracy down to 0% will not be possible, ever. Through smart business moves, one can still get more people to pay. Even if that, shockingly, means selling a music album for $1 in countries where that’s more appropriate.