Wednesday, 19 May 2010

How the real crime is market failure confused as crime

This is a lovely piece of synthesis:
‘Piracy’ is a clear example of a market failure that’s being mistaken for a crime.
And this is also pertinent:
The classic example of this is The Beatles. I’ve said before that if you have any Beatles songs on your iPod then you have broken the law. The Beatles music is not legally available in MP3 format and ripping a CD to your MP3 player, so-called format shifting, is a breach of copyright law.

Where the blame lies for The Beatles’ absence from MP3 stores is anyone’s guess but Sir Paul McCartney placed it firmly with EMI in an interview with the BBC last week. Regardless of blame, I doubt anyone will feel they have done anything wrong if they have ripped legally-purchased Beatles CDs to their MP3 player. And EMI is likely to turn a blind eye to such behaviour.
More from Shane Richmond, writing in the Telegraph along similar lines, here.
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As a postscript to all of this, I recently bought a Toshiba VHS/DVD/HDD recorder from Amazon which allows you to copy VHS tapes to DVD - and possibly to the internal hard drive as well as other external USB devices (I still haven't had time to fully investigate its copious documentation).  If this kind of format-shifting is possible, what's the point of me spending £200 on a device which can do something I'm not allowed to do?  Or, indeed, what moral right does a company like Toshiba have to design and manufacture such a device with so many legal caveats?

As a further postcript, I've had a DivX DVD player with a USB port for almost a year now - and still have been unable to find a reliable source of legal DivX content.  I did use Vuze right at the beginning, but one of the files which appeared to be legal downloaded with a virus attached to it - so, unhappy with that experience, I'm afraid I've gone back to renting and buying DVDs from my local supermarket.

As a final postscript, I also acquired a portable Samsung USB hard drive not long ago which came with a digital copy of Michael Jackson's recent film "This Is It".  Great film and pretty decent quality too - only downside I could see is that you can only install it on three different devices, all of which must be Windows.  If you want to stop people downloading content illegally, you really have to do better than that.  If DVDs can work on Windows, Apple, Linux and standard DVD devices, then their virtual equivalents must absolutely do no less.

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