The LIEF Erikson

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Copyright & Downloading

I've been busy over the past week and just got the chance to catch up on some of my mailing lists. One of them had an extended discussion thread on the legality and ethics of downloading episodes of Star Trek from the Internet. It was quite an eye-opener, not so much as to the law, logic and ethics of downloading but as to the attitudes of Star Trek fans (er... fen). With some notable exceptions the posts were simply trying to justify what they wanted to do.

Many point out the difference in price and value between Star Trek DVD boxed sets and, say, Star Gate season sets. So I love Giraffes too. I'd never buy one though when I can go to the zoo and see one any time I want! You don't think the DVD is good value? Rent it. One poster took his fellows to task regarding the effect that circumventing copyright by downloading would do, a most pertinent point although he didn't press it strongly enough.

At the moment, believe it or not, the owners of the Star Trek copyrights, Paramount et al, are very Fan friendly and do not press to try to "protect" their rights. It's not just the thousands of fan fiction stories on the Net nor the Fan Movies (I know of at least three although their names escape me and I am work away from my files). It could mean them coming down on the Fan Clubs and all the component chapters using Trek Logos and LCARS Fonts or the websites with screencaps of episodes and movies. Even the large and growing number of free paper models of trek ships and props available on the internet.

Think it won't happen? Ever wondered why you don't see many Disney Fan sites? Disney are renowned for being savage about protecting their copyright. Want to compare? Set your search engine on "Disney copyright" (try "Eldred" as well) and then search on "Star Trek Copyright". All you will find on the latter are the copyright riders we put on the bottom of our Fan works.

Copyright and Intellectual property rights are an incredibly complex problem that needs a balanced understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all parties. The creators of the works (the actors & designers) and the commercial risk-takers (the producers & distributors) need to show a return for their work and investments. On the other hand the consumers (the public) and those who would take the artistic work a step further - the fan fiction writers, amateur actors and producers and model makers - simply want to enjoy "the fan experience".

I think Star Trek fans who start actively attacking the legal rights of the copyright owners - no matter how much they think they can justify their actions – could cause Paramount to counter-attack. At the moment they allow fans pretty free reign but if they see that their bread-and-butter income producing properties are being devalued, well, what would you do?

2 Comments:

  • One way that P2P networks could really come into their own though would be in the distribution of Fan Movies. Because of the size of the files involved, the more people have the movie files on their networks as "seeders' the faster the download will be. (I'm sure someone will be kind enough to correct me if I'm wrong)

    There should be no copyright problems here since you are helping a non-profit Fan Film distribute their work. Checkout this discussion about using Torrent to distribute the first episode of Star Trek New Voyages. Note that this episode does not seem to be available for download - is this because of bandwidth limits with the makers/distributors? If so then you would be performing a service to the Trek community by having this available as a seed for P2P
    - Kirok

    By Blogger Kirok of L'Stok, at 2:11 pm, February 26, 2005  

  • News that a group of anonymous donors in the US private space industry have donated $3 million brought the following from one poster to Slashdot ...

    [Snip]
    "They currently have a total of $3,070,745.00 US contributed to saving the show.
    I personally welcome the continuation of the show as I believe it is getting better. Originally when it aired I wasn't really that interested. Now I'm hooked on it.

    I don't get UPN so I can't watch it so I have to go online and download the latest episode via Bittorrent. THAT is probably why their viewer ratings were so low. Checking the torrent tracker for this one episode totals 42,769.
    If Paramount would release even a semi-high quality episode even with the commercials included I would rather do that to show my support. Hell, if they had a subscription not priced overly extremed I'd do it.

    Online viewing is definalty growing more and more if they like it or not. Perhaps they'll learn from RIAA's mistakes and release an online "pay-per-download" setup. I'd join."
    [EndSnip]

    It makes sense to have pay-per-download but what copyright protection do Paramount have? How can they stop someone from downloading it, copying it and then distributing it or selling copies? How do they get advertiser revenue from this? (probably pretty good placement actually). If they do this who is going to buy the DVD's since downloaders would burn their own.

    Kirok

    By Blogger Kirok of L'Stok, at 11:51 pm, March 03, 2005  

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