Over the past several years, I have read numerous articles on the subject or piracy and copyright infringement until I found my own voice on the subject and began writing articles on the topic of copyright infringement. It still amazes me that fairly well-intentioned people as well as lazy short-cutters, scammers and black-hatters think it is fine to steal images from other other website, copy articles to their blogs or discussion boards or copy movies, videos and music to distribute whether on the web or hard copy.
Stealing Is Wrong
As more and more articles have been written, it is hard to believe anyone is left still unaware that piracy and copyright infringement are theft. It doesn’t matter if it is theft from a big Hollywood company or a company like Getty Images, or the small Skin, Health & Beauty blog, when people copy someone else’s work and post it on other sites, or copy it for distribution, they are stealing from that company or individual. Who doesn’t understand the basic moral and ethical implications of that? Stealing is wrong — it doesn’t matter from who you steal. We learn this in elementary school if we don’t learn it at home or Sunday school.
SOPA & PIPA
Now SOPA and PIPA are bringing more attention to the seriousness of copyright infringement and the theft of intellectual property: articles, photos, music and movies. GOOD FOR THEM. I applaud anything that will help cut back on copyright infringement and that will put black-hat companies, websites and individuals out of business. While I am sure there will be a few ridiculous abuses of PIPA and SOPA if passed (as have already occurred), I think stronger laws are a step in the right direction. The pendulum has swung too far in favor of copyright violators. If it swings in the direction of copyright holders, it will have a chance to balance somewhere in the middle when the dust settles.
Who Does Copyright Infringement Hurt?
“It doesn’t hurt anyone” is a common defense. It hurts you and me. Take music or movies, for instance. Sure, some of these companies make a lot of money, but would you go hold them up with a gun and mask? Why would anyone think it is OK to stick their hand in MGM or Sony or Getty Images or a writer’s pocket and remove money — because that is EXACTLY what you are doing if you copy their work to distribute or republish. They are not in business to lose money, so guess what they do. They add a small percentage to all their products to help cover the losses, so you pay for it and I pay for it when some jerk copies their material.
And companies are tired of it. Photographers are sick of it. Photo journalists like me are sick and tired of it. We lose some of our livelihood every time this happens. Consumers are weary of paying higher and higher percentages to cover the higher and higher losses. Enter SOPA and PIPA. Regardless of the spin put on these bills, these proposed more aggressive copyright laws are not the fault of Hollywood! They are the fault of the people who think it is OK to get by with copying and “borrowing” or STEALING someone else’s work or intellectual property.
Who else does it hurt? Take my friend, Linda. Linda hired a Nashville web design company to build a site for her. The company took images from Getty Images without paying (which is theft of property). Getty images is a reputable company used by many newspapers and magazines which pays photographers for images to resell to publications and bloggers. Neither Getty nor their photographers are in business to give away their photos to unscrupulous web designers. The rest of us have to pay more for Getty Images, because people steal a source of income from Getty Images and Getty Images makes it up by raising prices on their photo portfolio. But that’s not all.
Piracy’s $1200 Price Tag
My friend Linda’s site was discovered by Getty Images. Getty Images sent her a bill for past-due services for the use of their copyright-protected images. Linda contacted the Nashville web design company who built her site using images she assumed came through proper channels and was told to disregard the bill she received because it was a “scam.” However, following that “advice” landed her bill with a collection agency, and now Linda’s credit rating has been damaged and she owes well over $1200. Is it Getty Images fault? Is it Linda’s fault? No, it is the fault of the web company who knowingly put stolen images on her site, but Linda is the one who has to pay, because she owns the site. Oh, and someone has to pay the percentage the collection agency will make off of Getty Images. That would be you and me.
Copyright & Piracy — Not Just Hollywood Problems
Copyright and piracy problems do not just effect Hollywood. They effect us all. It is obvious how copyright infringement and piracy hurt a record company or a major Hollywood studio, or a company like Getty Images, but copyright infringement effects everyone at the wallet. It’s a universal issue perpetrated by unscrupulous people that disregards moral, ethical and economic principles.
SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act
House Bill 3261 or H.R. 3261, would increase the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. (Wikipedia)
PIPA: Protect IP Act
Senate Bill 968 or S. 968 is the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PIPA). The law would give the US government and copyright holders additional tools to limit access to “rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods,” focusing on sites outside the U.S. (Wikipedia)
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