Youth shaping future online

2012-02-20 07:28

Chicago - Young people want their music, TV and movies now - even if it means they get these things illegally.

A recent Columbia University survey found, in fact, that 70% of 18- to 29-year-olds said they had bought, copied or downloaded unauthorised music, TV shows or movies, compared with 46% of all adults who'd done the same.

With such an entrenched attitude, what can be done about widespread online piracy?

Certainly law enforcement has gone after people like these, hitting them with fines and, in some cases, even jail time. Congress is considering controversial anti-piracy bills that would, among other things, forbid search engines from linking to foreign websites accused of copyright infringement.

And there are lawsuits pitting media heavyweights against internet firms - notably Viacom's billion-dollar litigation against YouTube.

But here's a radical notion to consider: What if young people who steal content weren't viewed as the problem?

What if they and advocates for maximum online access could persuade the entertainment industry to loosen its tight grip on its coveted, copyrighted material - quite the opposite of what the industry is trying to do right now?

"The real problem is not pirates downloading illegally, but a failure to innovate on the part of the content providers," said Steven Budd, a law student at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Free isn't expected

Like it or not, that's how a lot of people of his generation view the situation. And some experts think they're gaining clout, as they insist on easy access to music and other content while the internet world loudly protests anti-piracy legislation that it says unfairly puts the responsibility of policing piracy sites on search engines and other sites.

"We've seen the emergence of a real social movement around these issues," said Joe Karaganis, vice president of The American Assembly, a public policy institute at Columbia University, which oversaw the recent survey, funded by a grant from Google.

He's talking, in part, about "blackouts" staged by popular internet sites that included Wikipedia, the user-generated online encyclopedia, and Reddit, the social news website.

With support from Google, Facebook and Twitter, they were protesting the proposed federal anti-piracy bills.

But here's the surprising part - a lot of young people don't necessarily expect to get movies, TV shows and music for free.

"I do think people would pay for this content if it's reasonably priced and it's available when they want to watch it," said Srikant Mikkilineni, a law student at Drake University in Des Moines.

Not wanting to mar his law school record, Mikkilineni pays for the songs, movies and TV shows he downloads. But he does so grudgingly. "Right now, they want us to pay multiple times for the same content," he said, complaining that that's not reasonable.

If he buys a DVD, for instance, it's $15. He can watch it on his laptop - but it's illegal for him to copy it in order to watch it on his iPod or smartphone.

Many young people point to Apple's iTunes service as a model that could be replicated by other entertainment companies.

Convenience

"iTunes changed the landscape for music because it made it far too convenient and much easier than downloading music through alternative methods [even illegal ones]," said Matt Gardner, an information technology student at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

But even more than convenience, a recent study at Duke University found that cost was the major factor that drives college students to copy entertainment content illegally. Researchers there found that the lower the students' income, including their parents' income, the more likely they were to search for free, illegal options.

To address the issue of cost, the study's authors suggested that universities consider making licensing agreements with services that sell entertainment content so that students could get a discount.

Cornell University is one institution that has experimented with this. From 2004 to 2006, an anonymous donor paid for two years' worth of Napster service for Cornell students, but students ultimately declined to have their student activity fees raised to continue the service because the music couldn't be played on all devices, according to the Duke study.

There are those who doubt that students would pay for content they can pirate, especially when the habit has become so ingrained.

"Nobody's going to pay you for something they can get for free," said Glenn MacDonald, an economics professor at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St Louis.

So he asks: What if you gave music and movies to consumers for free, or asked them to pay what they thought the content was worth?

Some bands such as Radiohead are already doing that - in essence, using their songs to build a following and entice people to pay to see them in concert and, once there, to buy their merchandise.

Give the peanuts

The song becomes the ad, MacDonald said. Or a movie on the small screen becomes the driving force for a line of merchandise or drives the wish to see it again on a big screen in 3D or at a special theatre event. A free clip from a TV show seen online draws viewers to the show.

"It's like a bar. They give you the peanuts so you buy the beer," MacDonald said.

He notes that music companies already take a cut of money made from concerts, merchandise and endorsements. So he thinks that should, at the very least, offset the cost of the recorded music to consumers, who've been increasingly willing to pay big prices to see artists live.

"Music companies would be better served by increasing their focus on how to make artists' music, and especially their concerts, even better," MacDonald said.

Nice thought, but not realistic, said Thomas Carpenter, general counsel for legislative affairs for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union that represents people working in the entertainment industry.

As it stands, he says 90% of the earnings that a musician currently makes under a recording contract is tied directly to royalties from sales, including lawful downloads. For actors, he said, it's about 50%.

"There's a lot at stake - much more than most people realise," Carpenter said.

"You have to be paid in order to be good. You have to use the funds from your projects to fund your future creativity," he added.

Still even some people who've spent their careers defending copyrights say it's time to find some middle ground.

How to compute damages

"It really is a failure to come up with practical, reasonable models for sales and distribution," said Michael R Graham, a Chicago attorney who specialises in trademark and copyright law. "There's a real disconnect."

Like many, he thinks iTunes has set the standard for the future.

Another possible approach: Licensing agreements - with online services, for instance, paying a fee to content creators so they can provide it to consumers for free or for a monthly subscription fee.

Popular options, so far, include online music streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. Others point to movie and TV services such as Netflix, though some complain that content on Netflix's online streaming service is still too limited.

Hundreds of thousands of people also quit Netflix last year after it started charging more to those who wanted both the streaming service and DVDs sent to them in the mail - another indication of just how much impact the public can have in these matters.

A major lawsuit now before a federal appeals court has put a spotlight on these issues.

Viacom is appealing a lower court ruling that found YouTube, Google's popular video sharing service, is protected from copyright infringement claims.

Viacom claims that YouTube is making millions when people post copyrighted videos - including some shows Viacom owns. YouTube says it forces people to remove the content when discovered, as the law allows.

During October proceedings before the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, Judge Roger Miner asked, "How in the world can damages be computed here?"

Change is inevitable

"The number could be quite large," said Viacom attorney Paul Smith.

Miner responded: "Maybe what you're really looking for is a licence agreement."

Smith said that was possible - an outcome that some would consider a win for those who want greater access to content on the internet.

Whatever happens, college student Omar Ahmad said the entertainment industry has to realise that people his age aren't likely to change their piracy habits, even with the threat of more serious punishments that Congress is considering.

"They're going to continue doing it - that's the truth," said Ahmad, a senior at Seton Hall University who's also manager of the New Jersey school's radio station.

Karaganis at Columbia agrees that young people and the internet community in general have proven they can influence the entertainment industry, whether it likes it or not.

"Change is inevitable," he said. "The question is how quickly will it happen - and how much of a fortress will be built around intellectual property in the meantime.

"Now, I think all bets are off."

- SAPA

Read more on:    us  |  online security  |  cybercrime
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Marikana ANC office burnt down

A shack used an ANC branch office has been set alight at Nkaneng informal settlement in Wonderkop near Marikana.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Century City - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Ratanga Road Southbound
    ROADWORKS - lane closure between Ocean Spirit Avenue and Century Boulevard (until mid April)
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Spine Road
    ROAD CLOSED between Weltevreden Drive and Seafarer Drive due to roadworks (until mid April)
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB

There are no straight lines in nature. The Samsung  GALAXY...

From R3515.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be more sensitive today and can be influenced easily by the energies around you. Try not to be swayed too much by the...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.