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.