Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pirates of the Internet

Today I shipped off nine letters to nine managers of Quality Assurance at nine of the top manufacturers within 40 miles of my house. None of them have even a third as many employees as my last employer. Still, if I want to stay in the area, and I do want to stay in the area, these are my choices. Well, my top nine choices, anyway.

Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy posted a link to a website that has episodes of Carl Sagan's TV series Cosmos available for download for free. "I have no idea if this is legal or not," Phil noted, but many of his commentors expressed considerably less agnosticism on the subject.


(Update 7/18/07: Phil has removed the link. But these pirated videos are still out there, and a lot of people don't see anything wrong with downloading them. Whether this is legal or not at this moment is not a matter of consensus: stealing copyrighted material is wrong.)

Cosmos is a copyrighted program. It is not in the public domain, and is (and has been) available for sale in VHS and DVD formats for some time. While it is a program with great educational value, this alone does not exempt people who want to see it from copyright restrictions. Bottom line: unless it's been authorized by the copyright holders, downloading this program from any site on the Internet is illegal.

Nearly five months ago I lost my job as a DVD Asset Manager at a major DVD Compression, Encoding, and Authoring facility within a major DVD Replicator. At the time I was told that cost-saving cutbacks were being made because sales were lagging behind sales targets, and I was one of those cost-saving cutbacks.

DVD sales have fallen for a lot of reasons. The popularity of Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) built directly into TV satellite receivers means that people can record their favorite movies and TV shows from across a broad spectrum of channels, as long as they don't mind the monthly access fee, special per-program fees, and video and audio quality vastly inferior to DVDs. Many people have already replaced their old VHS movie collections with DVD versions, and now are buying movies at a much slower pace. And the number of major DVD releases coming out each week has dipped dramatically.

But the major reason for the drop in DVD sales is the same as the major reason for the drop in CD sales: Piracy. Illegal downloads. People would much rather get something for free than pay money for it. So they convince themselves that what they are doing is a victimless crime, not even a crime at all, just the happy transfer of ones and zeroes from this bit torrent site or that Usenet site. We're sharing, isn't that what we're supposed to do? Fight the power!

Internet piracy is not a victimless crime, no more than shoplifting or identity theft are victimless crimes. I'm one of those victims, and I know lots of others. If you're illegally downloading copyrighted material, you're committing a crime, too, just as surely as if you were stealing a DVD or CD or book from a store.

So if you're doing it, please stop. And try to convince other people to stop, too.

Now, what other local companies might be needing an ex-DVD Asset Manager? Let me get my list...

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