It's been a while since I had a good rant!
As a graphic designer, I certainly understand and appreciate the need for copyright. But when you instigate a copyright system that patently doesn’t work, then ensure that it’s not implemented consistently, and then impose draconian penalties that inconvenience and abuse customers who are doing the right thing, then it’s time to have a good hard look at the system.
Yep, I’m talking about movies. Who hasn’t had their blood boil at being forced to watch an semi-abusive advertisement about copyright violation on a DVD that you paid good money for? Or driven mad by code systems that don’t let you play a movie that an overseas seller happily sold you? The system is a mess, and while copyright abusers happily continue to churn out cheap knock-offs in their millions, the innocent consumer is demonized and inconvenienced.
My current DVD/Blu-ray player is, ostensibly, a universal player. That is, it will play a disc from any world region. The hilarious thing is, this functionality is made as difficult as possible for the user to access. You have to hit a button on the remote and enter a secret four digit code; then a hidden menu appears from which you can change the region code. I mean, for frak’s sake, what is this, a secret decoder ring club for teenage boys? I had to discover this hidden functionality, of course, on the internet, to which I was directed by a representative of the manufacturer on the phone; the entire process felt like a whispered drug deal in the corner of some dingy bar.
Of course, the region resets to the default all the time, so I’m continually forced to do this ridiculous dance every time I play discs I’ve legally purchased from the US or the UK or Australia or whatever. Of course, the studios are happy for you to buy the discs, they just don’t want to make it all easy for you to play them; and when you do, you’ll probably be subject to some non-skippable, high volume abuse about how pirating discs is a crime on a par with murdering old ladies.
Thankfully, things are, at the speed of your average glacier, changing. I’ve noticed a few recent discs have ads that have finally changed tack, actually thanking the viewer for doing the right thing. Well it only took them about ten years to wake up to that bit of basic psychology.
In the meantime, go to any southeast Asian country and you can pick up pirated DVDs by the bucketful. Not that I would, as the quality is almost without fail utterly crap, but the point for the studios is, stop zeroing in on the soft targets and hit the people who are actually causing the problem. Or better yet, accept the fact that copyright abuse is a fact of life, and figure it into your multi-million dollar profit margins.
What annoys me is the stupidity of the entire approach; because the bottom line is, if people can get content, and play content easily, they will happily pay for it. Make it difficult, expensive, or just plain impossible, and those convenient illegal methods start to look a hell of a lot more enticing.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that AppleTV doesn’t make TV shows available for rental or purchase in NZ because SkyTV have locked down the local distribution deals. Or that you have to re-download all your iOS apps when you move to another country. We’re all happily paying for content that isn’t actually ours, and is subject to a ridiculous multiplicity of out-of-date national copyright laws that have hardly woken up to the fact that there is an internet, let alone been flexible enough to accommodate it.
I’m sure one day society will look back on the growing pains of the international content delivery system and laugh at the poor chumps who had to put up with them. Unfortunately, I realize more and more each day that ours is the generation that must endure the early, faltering steps of the digital revolution. Probably just as I shuffle off this mortal coil it will all start working properly…