some cases for copyright violations

The whole Pirate Bay trial thing has gotten me thinking quite a bit about copyright, and I figured I’d post up a few more of my thoughts on the matter.  There are a couple of times where I think being able to freely download content online are justified, since you are in a sense already authorized.  There’s two scenarios I wanna cover.

The first one is, what are your fair use rights if you bought a copy (or a license as studios would prefer) to a work — does that legally mean that you can reproduce that copy if yours gets damaged, lost, or is defective?  That’s honestly an open question I’m asking myself, and I tend to lean towards the side that is alright to provide yourself with a copy of something you already paid for.

A small anecdotal example that happened to me recently, is I bought some DVDs of a TV show online.  I’ve been watching them at home on my DVD player, but one of the discs was having playback issues — it would skip and I couldn’t watch the entire episode.  The quality of the disc was irrelevant, since I bought the package new, and they were obviously in pristine quality.  I examined the disc and it didn’t have any earmarks of what looked to be a low quality product, so I put it back in the player and got the same response.

I figured it was a total fluke and just skipped over that one, and chalked it up to a rare case of bad luck on my end.  But then, the same thing happened on the next disc as well.  One of the episodes would stutter and I couldn’t get my DVD player to navigate around it … I had to skip the chapter completely.

Now, I had just barely bought this, so I was well within the reseller’s timeline of being able to return the discs for an exchange, but what if that wasn’t the case?  What if I bought a series set, and didn’t open it up and play it back until months or years later (which is, in reality, not a strange occurrence with me at all, considering I’m building a large archive).  I’d be pretty much screwed, as my receipts would be gone, as well as any records that I even bought the thing, most likely.  I probably wouldn’t even remember where I got it.

In a case like that, what would my rights be if I decided to fire up a P2P program or grab a torrent of the missing episodes that I couldn’t watch or rip myself?  Personally, I feel like I’m totally in the right, as I paid for my privilege (or license), and there is no other recourse except to substitute my limited physical copy for a digital copy of an infinite good.  As a collector, I’d be bummed that I didn’t have a working disc, but I’d still prefer to have the ability to watch it any format rather than none at all.

So there’s one scenario where I think that torrents and file-sharing could prove to be a reliable source — I can look at is a digital backup of everything I’ve bought that can be recreated in binary form.  I really doubt that the original producers are going to go through all the trouble and hassle of hosting backups of the data and verifying my original purchase, so I can use the online “pirated” library to my advantage.  Plus it could be seen as a boon to them, they wouldn’t have to pay for the infrastructure to host it.  But, anyway, I want to examine the legal issue, not the business one.

Meh, I’m running out of steam.  I’ll cover the second case later. :)

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “some cases for copyright violations

  1. Albert Nonymouse

    I don’t know what your second case is, but I’ll provide my own. I’ve subscribed to cable television in one form or another for several decades. I turned to satellite when I could, but often circumstances dictate I have to use cable (currently I live in a wooded area with no clear path for a sat. dish). [Actually, this applies to satellite as well.]
    I pay a monthly fee for just about all the available channels, so I’m paying a fairly substantial sum to the cable company, which in turn gets passed on to the content creators in the form of licensing fees paid by the cable provider.

    If I had no other responsibilities and didn’t need sleep, I could watch 24/7 and enjoy any show on any of the channels I pay for. Since DVRs are legal, I don’t have to give up work/sleep – I can choose any show from the channels available to me and record them for later watching. That’s any show, from any channel I pay to get.

    If I miss a show for some reason (work, illness, emergency) and didn’t happen to program the DVR to record it, but I would have been eligible to watch/record it had I been home, I think it’s fair to consider that I’ve paid for the right to watch it. So downloading something that I would have had the legal right to watch/record isn’t much different from storing it on the DVR.

    I’ve participated in the system, I’ve paid for the right to receive and enjoy content etc. I’ve paid the piper. As such, downloading something I missed isn’t a clear cut case of “theft” or copyright violation as the content creators would make it out to be. Sure, they would like to make me pay for it again, but I already did.

    I suspect many people fall into this category, so crying “lost revenue” when someone downloads from the internet isn’t necessarily true. They may have actually paid for it, and perhaps even many times over.

  2. You’re addressing two different kinds of rights, moral and legal. In the scenario you describe I would concur that morally you’re well justified in downloading the content. But legally speaking it’s a rather clear-cut case that you are not. See the decision in the mp3.com case where the judge ruled mp3.com had no legal standing to rip CDs and then distribute those mp3s even when users provided validation that they already owned a copy of the CD. The crux of the matter was the source of the material, the fact that the mp3 came from a CD owned by mp3.com and not the user. Sounds very similar to the situation you describe. If instead you had ripped the DVD yourself, you’d be on solid ground (ignoring the felony you committed in breaking the copy protection, but that’s another rant).

    These examples I think highlight the fact that our copyright system is grossly out of touch with reality. If a well reasoned and well intentioned user is committing copyright infringement, that’s a sign that the rules are broken. Unfortunately, the people who make the regulations tend to listen more to those with the $$$.

  3. “I bought some DVDs of a TV show online. I’ve been watching them at home on my DVD player, but one of the discs was having playback issues”

    How about the 20 albums I purchased in 8 track tape form in the 70s? Or the 30 VHS movies sitting in my basement that I can no longer watch because I don’t own a VHS player anymore? I have a legitimate right to copies of these works. In effect, I purchased a license to play them back in perpetuity. But the media companies want to force me to go and purchase the same works in new formats.

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