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In search of answers to the piracy problem

I read with great interest Mike Masnick’s recent article in The Hill titled “The answer to the copyright question is innovation” and found myself agreeing with much of what he said about how to solve the problem of copyright piracy. 

Masnick says that copyright theft can be reduced by the provision of innovative consumer friendly services that respond to consumers’ entertainment needs.  He is absolutely correct on this point.  There are innovative services like iTunes, Hulu, ScienceDirect and MHE Create that provide legal access to copyrighted music, movies, books, video games and photos, which are seamless and affordable for consumers and should reduce some of the allure of illegal services like MovieTube, MP3Skull, Popcorn Time, 4shared.com, Aurous and the Pirate Bay. 

{mosads}Copyright creators are not satisfied with the status quo.  They continue to feverishly work with their in-house technology experts and technology partners to develop the next great innovative service that can deliver their content to consumers more easily, quickly, cheaply and of course, legally.  

Masnick also suggests that the “Hollywood v Silicon Valley” “narrative is completely wrong.”  That’s another excellent point, and in fact, the same point the Copyright Alliance has been making for years.  Both sectors are equal parts innovators and creators. 

Wonderful new and innovative copyrighted works are created throughout the country, whether it’s a movie created in Hollywood, software created in Silicon Valley, a book authored in the Windy City, a play performed on Broadway, a song written in Music City or a photograph taken in the Big Easy.  Artists, authors, software developers, photographers, performers, musicians, journalists, directors, songwriters, game designers and other creators throughout the country rely on copyright to earn a living and make careers.  Their freedom to do so is threatened when their works are illegally copied and made available online.  Similarly, the success of new innovative services and technologies that deliver copyrighted works to consumers and the companies that create these services are likewise threatened by these illegal activities.   

The question posed by Masnick is what do we do to address these problems.  And that’s where Masnick and I differ.  The problem is right there in the title — where he suggests “the answer to the copyright question.”  Why is there only one answer?  Why is the only answer, the provision of consumer friendly services (i.e., the carrot approach)?  Isn’t it possible that there is no silver-bullet approach to solving “the copyright issue”?  Isn’t it possible that the best solution is actually a multifaceted approach to the problem?  Of course it is. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the piracy epidemic.  We need carrots and we need sticks.  But we also need other new innovative ideas to address the piracy problem.  If we all work together to try to find new solutions to this problem rather than picking one solution as the sole best solution to the exclusion of all others, maybe we can actually develop not just one answer but many answers.  Hopefully, we can come up with answers that will work for everyone whether you’re a creator, a service that provides access to creative works, a consumer or someone else in the creativity food chain.   

Let’s challenge ourselves.  Let’s not limit ourselves to “my solution” or “your solution.”  Let’s work on “our solutions.”  It’s too easy to rely on the old cliché that this is a “copyright v tech” fight.  That’s incorrect, old-school thinking, and an extremist view that only hinders potential progress. 

As the new CEO of the Copyright Alliance, I extend an olive branch to anyone who has a real interest in trying to work together to develop innovative, creative ways to address the piracy problem.  These solutions need not be legislative in nature, but can be (in fact maybe they should be) based on marketplace solutions that will take into account the multitude of varied interests.   

Ultimately, this approach may result in everyone not getting everything they want or need out of the process.  However, if we can successfully move away from simply rehashing the schoolyard copyright brawls we’ve been needlessly entangled in for the past few years and instead move forward together, we might have a real chance at making some real progress. 

Kupferschmid is the chief executive officer of the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing the interests of creators, producers and distributors of creative works across the spectrum of creative disciplines. 

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