Libertarians, Property Rights, File Sharing and Piracy – Is “File Sharing” OK?

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Creating something that people want to watch, listen to, read or use takes time. It also takes money. Not to mention talent. Whether it be a movie, TV show, short YouTube video, song, book or a piece of software, a human or group of humans made that thing happen.

To write this opinion piece, I’m using a computer that was purchased for approximately $1,100.00. I’m using electricity that is not free and an internet connection which also is not free. I am voluntarily creating this document for everyone with internet access to view it. Technically, I am at a net loss when it is all said and done and I’m OK with that. That is my choice.

However, when I make a video specifically for my YouTube channel where I monetize and hope to recoup the cost/time it took to make that video, I want that video to only be accessible on that YouTube page. When someone copies that video, either through use of a “YouTube Downloader”, screen capture software or by recording their computer screen, and then re-uploads it WITHOUT MY CONSENT they are taking my property. They are depriving me of recouping the cost it took to create said video and it is WRONG!

On a larger scale, when it comes to movies, TV shows and software A LOT of time and money goes into creating those forms of media. Typically, the higher the quality the more time and money it took to get to the end result. That’s not even accounting for the ideas and thoughts it took to come up with those original works. Think something is “just a file”? Well hey, the hours that you work at your “normal job” (if you have one) are just numbers on a sheet of paper. Clock in and clock out. Your labor really means nothing, right?

No…I don’t think you would agree with my sarcasm. The work you put into whatever you do—whether it’s a retail job, construction job, teaching job, office job or whatever else—took time and money and you expect to be compensated for it…right? Isn’t that how the world is supposed to work? Yes it is. When you “share” media files, which is really just a cute way of saying redistribute, you deprive people of the fruits of their labor.

Let’s say it takes, I don’t know, $20,000 to make an episode for a TV show. This isn’t a magic number that was pulled out of my ass—this is the true cost of what I’ve spent to make a pilot episode for a TV show. A camera purchase, camera rentals, several microphones, travel costs, tripod cost and a bunch of things that I can’t even remember at the moment. I’ll name specifics so you can Google their prices.

  • Sony PMW-EX1 camcorder (purchased in 2008 at the cost of $7,000 including memory cards)
  •  Westside AV EX1 Shouldermount system
  • Sennheiser G2 wireless microphone kit
  • Sennheiser MKE2 Gold microphone
  • MXL 603s microphone plus Oktavamod.com MXL 603s modification
  • Electro-Voice N/D767a microphone
  • Shure SM7b microphone
  • Manfrotto 504HD Tripod plus legs
  • GoPro camera plus mounts
  • Comer CM-LBPS1800 Video Light
  • Audio software for a proper mix

This doesn’t include the cost of gasoline, automobile maintenance, hotel rooms and other odds and ends that I forgot. Most of the people involved with the show are working for free, but not all. So let’s throw that in there as well. All total, it cost me around $20,000 to shoot ONE half hour show at a professional quality level. That’s with $0 for the marketing budget. In the TV industry $20k is considered a shoestring budget. Sure, it can be shot cheaper but not to a broadcast quality level.

One day I hope to recoup the costs of shooting that TV pilot. That won’t happen through YouTube ads alone. If 1,000 people buy a $20.00 Bluray copy or 6,666 people buy a $3.00 digital download then it will happen. If only one person buys a copy and then 10,000 people download it “for free” then that’s a $19,980 net loss for the project. Another episode or segment will not be made, no matter how many people love it.

Now to be fair I have used a lot of the camera gear for other projects. But to give you an idea of how much it costs on the small level to produce media, there you go. People wonder why there are so many reality shows on TV and the fiction shows are going away…it’s because of the illegal redistribution! Sponsors of these shows are paying less because those commercials get cut out of the shows when some jerk off uploads it to The Pirate Bay. And let’s not forget about DVRs that allow you to easily “time-shift” as they say in the TV industry. I attended a TV producers’ convention in 2009 (NATPE) and this was a major topic of discussion BACK THEN. Ad rates were hurting BACK THEN (and no doubt are a lot worse now) due to people not watching commercials. Money from commercials makes the show a reality. Companies pay less because less people are watching them.

I just always find it funny that libertarians care so much about property rights until it comes to digital property. For some reason, because it’s 1’s and 0’s, it doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of people.

Well, I’m here to say that it does matter and the more illegal redistribution that happens the more you will see a reduction in quality. A lot of good people are leaving the content creation business because the money is no longer there. So…enjoy your crummy reality shows about the Kardashians. And the low brow one-off viral videos that were recorded on a cell phone camera. Hey, look another TV show about teenagers getting knocked up and coping with the “fun” of being parents while still attending high school and being jobless! Cool!

How about the bands who record their music in their parents’ basement with a $100 microphone into their Windows XP computer (because that’s all they can afford because everyone is “sharing” their music with full album uploads to YouTube)? The best way you can show your appreciation for a band, no matter if they are mega rock stars or basement dwellers is to buy their music, attend their concerts and buy their merchandise. A Facebook like doesn’t pay the bills. A retweet doesn’t pay the bills and a pin or whatever the hell they do on that Pinterest site surely doesn’t pay the bills. NOT clicking the “skip” button on YouTube helps a little…about as much as they pay at an Asian sweatshop per hour. At least it’s something, though.

Music sales plummeted after Napster became a household name, so don’t even try to argue against it. You have high profile musicians resorting to Kickstarter crowdfunding because of this shit. How sad and pathetic is that? If you think, “Well the record labels will get most of the money!” – when is the last time you mailed a check to the official fan club address to donate album money directly to the band? I bet never for most of you. You like free stuff and the chances of going to jail for downloading media are minimal…that’s why you do it. Just admit it.

Videogames are raking in the sales in record numbers. They are the last bastion of the “good old days” when people actually paid for media products. The biggest reason for that, in my humble opinion, is because there are consequences for getting caught with pirated copies of games. You can get “console banned” and lose your ability to play multiplayer games. Imagine if book publishers, software companies, filmmakers or record labels had the same power? That’s not an unrealistic scenario. Digital law enforcement is coming; it is only a matter of time. It almost happened with CISPA/SOPA, but those bills were way overreaching. The OPEN Act was that bill, but you probably never heard of it. Why not? Because the big boy tech companies didn’t want you to hear about it. You can read about it at http://keepthewebopen.com .

The bottom line? The Pirate Bay has sponsors. TorrentFreak has sponsors. Ebaumsworld…WorldstarHipHop and a bunch of other sites of the same ilk who are notorious for stealing others’ content while making big bucks? They have sponsors. If you don’t think it’s wrong/illegal for these guys to make money off others’ blood/sweat/tears/tokens then I don’t know what to tell you. The lights need to be kept on, food needs to be in stomachs and NOBODY should involuntarily be working for free.

About Author

Adam Reuter is a freelance videographer, photographer, audio engineer and writer. He produces videos at http://www.youtube.com/RealHomeRecording and http://www.youtube.com/areuter727 . He currently has three television pilots in production and three in development.

  • Obamas Logic

    Thanks for the browbeating. The tone of the article makes you sound like a crybaby. If anything, I’m less sympathetic of your cause. Good luck caped crusader.

  • Henry

    My take on it is that information is property, but that it cannot be shared with even a single other human being without it ceasing to be your exclusive property. So if you wrote a song and recorded it, that’s your song, but once you sell a copy to somebody, it’s his song too now, and by allowing somebody to obtain a copy, you have given up any and all control over it, therefore he is free to share it all he likes, or sell copies of it, or whatever he wants.

    As for “but I need to make a living,” tough crap. I’m a musician myself. Turns out, in this day and age, musician is no longer a realistic career, any more than winning the lottery is. Same goes for artist, cinematographer, etc…. it’s a passion, an art form, a calling perhaps, but not a realistic career path.

  • kharaa

    I depends on what side of libertarian-ism you are. Where in a right-wing libertarian government, it’s all about the free market and property, in left libertarian property is considered theft.