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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Boycott 2.0 – The Joycott

With the rise of the Bin Laden book, it is time to take a look at a new type of boycott. In this age of information, knowing what your enemy—political or martial—is thinking is critical, and for a democracy to function, all citizens should be informed. Yet in this age of escalating copyright law, gaining access to the mass works of such an enemy means you must support that very work's dissemination. Fortunately, there is another way. By using P2P networks to 'pirate' the work, you can boycott it and yet still discuss it intelligently, countering the usual “don't knock it 'till you've seen it” argument effectively, without having to support a work one finds morally repugnant. I call it “Joycotting,” because you can boycott the work but still enjoy its perusal. Jihad, Jihad for a Jew, Farenheit 9/11 for a Bush supporter, Disney films for a Southern Baptist, Passion of the Christ for moderates, Requiem for a Dream for a conservative, the Bin Laden book for any American, all prove worthy candidates for such a boycott. Some other suggestions follow:

Boycott works of poor quality, e.g. The Mission Impossible DVD, where they simply didn't take the time or energy to look at the DVD before stamping out millions of copies and pawning them off on unsuspecting customers.

Boycott works which should be out of copyright, but aren't because of Congress' actions. This one is particularly salient because it only requires a few copies to break even since the production costs are sunk costs, making each copy purchased a stronger incentive for them to push for copyright extensions in the future. Many older DVD's also fall under the boycott poor quality works argument, as pictures like Metropolis could be easily fixed, but aren't, and they are still more expensive than modern movies, despite the poor quality transfers and zero filming costs.

Some will argue that joycotting provides an easy way out for those who wish to justify their piracy, but this argument fails under the sheer weight of 60+ million Americans downloading off P2P networks. People, it seems, don't need any justification to enjoy works which in many cases should be in the public domain or freely shareable, nor to they need a justification to support the production of new works . Joycotting thus provides the basis for a moral framework for what to download, which should decrease the numbers of works being shared over P2P networks. Respecting the Founders' Copyright is one example of such a system, with the joycotter providing funding for recent works (economically, providing justification for the content producer's assumption that investment in future projects will be rewarded, by supporting profits for their past investment, and providing the capital to produce such future projects). Another option would be refusing to support the output of poor-quality works from Hollywood, instead buying only those movies which provide substantial value. Whichever framework is chosen, it will at least be consistent, an improvement from the status quo.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't entirely agree with this argument. I think the owner of a work benefits indirectly when you use or distribute their work. After all, it's free viral marketing. Some works have a network-effect value (value = O(n) for n people that use it) -- if a song is being used in a movie, then it helps the owner of the copyright on the song bargain if the song is known by many people (as the maker of the movie can use the same song to communicate to more people).

I think it is irresponsible to distribute the work of, for instance, the RIAA, as you are essentially lending the work free marketing. I prefer to find freer music that I can distribute and enjoy.

I understand that information is key, but the term "joycotting", as well as the examples you pose, suggests the information being illegally copied is being used for entertainment, not for the vitality of democracy. The entertainment industry hasn't even said "thanks" for all the marketing we get them. In fact, they'll try to sue me for helping them make a buck. As a result, I don't want to help people get their information.

Indie music fans were a lot rarer -- now, with places like Webjay, I think a lot of people will start being able to resist the monopoly.

Ethan Glasser-Camp

7:13 PM  

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