Offtopic: licensed content

Initially, this section was conceived as a news section, in which the latest events from the world of mobile technology would be discussed. This time I would like to make an exception and talk about one eternal problem, without any connection to the latest news. Namely about the problem of piracy.


Property rights

The concept of property is generally quite complex, and in the entire history of mankind it has changed more than once or twice. Sometimes such changes took place almost imperceptibly, sometimes they were accompanied by serious shocks. Take, for example, the abolition of slavery or serfdom, when it suddenly turned out that one person cannot own another person as an ordinary thing. Now it seems obvious and the only correct state of affairs, but a few centuries ago everything was different. The very idea that a slave might have some rights, that his opinion must be taken into account, seemed outright savagery even to the most enlightened and intelligent people.

Another far from obvious thought is that something that cannot be touched with your hands may also have some value. Moreover – also belong to someone, like a real thing. Even in the days of Pushkin's youth, it was considered quite normal to collect 'your own' collection of poems, in which poems of various authors were recorded. In the eyes of those around them, only the book itself and the work of the scribe had value, and not the work of the authors, whose names were often not even indicated. The first copyright law (the Statute on Censorship and the Statute on the Rights of Writers) was adopted in Russia only in 1828. I don’t know how favorably such innovations were received, but I suspect that a lot of people considered such “air fees” to be outright nonsense. Here is a censor or a printing house worker who really works and receives a fair wage for his work. And what have the lyricists to do with it? What kind of fashion is this, to sell rhymed words? Maybe now we can add a payment for its smell to the price of the soup?


However, they got used to it pretty quickly. In the end, the buyer, in any case, bought a book that you can hold in your hands, and put on a shelf, and then resell it yourself if that. And how the authors share money with publishers is the tenth thing.

In the era of the Internet, everything has changed once again. The book has lost its physical medium, the copy has ceased to be in any way inferior to the original, the concept of 'scarcity' has disappeared as a class. And the controversy over 'air fees' flared up with renewed vigor. Someone considers the very idea that programs need to be bought and pay for watching films is idiocy. After all, a copy of the program itself does not cost anything, and giving a purchased book to a friend to read is everyone's sacred right. Others insist that the type of media is the tenth thing and that every copy of a book sold must be paid for, regardless of whether it was printed on paper or not.

The concept of theft or piracy has also ceased to be unambiguous. Why anyone can enroll in the city library, and completely free of charge, but if he uses the electronic library – that's it, he's already a pirate? Is it correct to think that stealing a printed book from a warehouse where tens of thousands of the same are stored is a criminal offense and definitely an unworthy act, but to steal its electronic version (which will be sold in about the same circulation) is correct and honest? Thousands of such questions arise, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Each side has its own interests here. Users do not understand why they should pay money when they may not. Publishers are not ready to give up their business or seriously change something in it, even if it was founded at a different time and slightly different realities. Authors are torn between the desire to become well-known and share their work with everyone and the consciousness that they need to live on something. And that the ideas of communism are great, but besides a piece of bread, I really want butter, and, ideally, also red caviar. Producers and directors know how much a modern film costs, and are not ready to sell apartments for filming and take on multimillion-dollar loans. As a result, we get a bunch of problems, even more emotions and a complete lack of consensus. The state (any) is forced to at least try to somehow control all this, come up with more or less reasonable rules and at least somehow working laws. In the absence of a clear understanding of 'what is good and what is bad', it all turns out so-so. The law is always only a crutch for morality, and while moral rules and principles have not yet taken shape in society itself, nothing good can be expected from it.

Let's try to imagine which option for selling and distributing content would suit everyone.

What to do and who is to blame

As soon as it comes to copyright, the dialogue turns into a bunch of monologues, where each speaker hears only himself. He pays attention to other arguments only when they can be of some benefit to him. As a result, the discussion very quickly begins to resemble a dispute between religious fanatics belonging to different confessions, and not a conversation of sane adults. Truth is indeed often born in a dispute, but only if everyone is ready to admit that the opponent is right. And in the fight of the deaf and dumb, only misunderstanding and anger are born.

If you are trying to come up with some kind of fair, and most importantly, a working system that would suit all participants in the process, then you need to start with the rights of the authors who create this very 'intellectual property'. Otherwise, programmers will retrain into minibus drivers, writers will get yellowed engineering degrees, and musicians will go to work in factories. You can only dream of new albums of your favorite band, continuation of your favorite books or even just convenient software, all this will be done only by rare enthusiasts in their free time. This will obviously not affect the quality in the best way, and amateurs will very quickly take the place of professionals. Who will get better from this is not completely clear.


On the other hand, the rights of the authors rest not only and not so much on money. First of all, it is also the freedom to dispose of their work as they see fit. In reality, this can be very problematic – quite often there are situations when the author does not own the rights to release his own work. They temporarily go to the publisher, who may not be interested at all in the re-release of the book or the continuation of the famous game. From the point of view of any sane person, this is just absurdity that harms absolutely everyone.

In addition, the author will only benefit from the fact that his work will receive worldwide fame, which is unlikely to shine for him, if his book can be viewed for only $ 99. Information must be available, and people have the right to read not only educational literature and classical works that are considered national property. The non-reading population does not need any books at all, and the authors are somehow unnecessary. The task of developing your audience, teaching people to read is not just the duty of every author, but the guarantee of the existence of his profession. What many people forget these days.

As for readers (as well as viewers, listeners, users and everyone else), they usually do not argue that the work of the authors should be paid. In any case, in words. The question arises rather in the assessment. Go to any torrent tracker and you will definitely find a bunch of comments like “I would even pay for this game, but it’s not worth that much” and “Am I paying that kind of money, idiot?”. It's not even that people can't afford to spend that amount on their hobbies. Rather, they simply do not consider it justified, fair to them. For example, F2P games bring their creators a lot more money than games that were originally paid. Simply because in the first case, the buyer was forced to pay money to someone else's uncle for nothing, and in the second case he spent it for himself, buying a new sword, a cool tank upgrade or a new avatar for a social network. Tellingly, many of these purchases are motivated by moral considerations: 'I just want to thank the author, so I wouldn't buy painted objects for real money in my life.'


How to evaluate the quality of a computer game, music or book? And who should do it? Authors who deliberately cannot objectively evaluate their work? Users who can buy themselves a well-established flagship, but can never find $ 1 to buy a program on Google Play? Commissions of officials and art critics?

In my opinion, the verdict in any case should be made only by users and no one else. But at this moment they should not think about their wallet, but about the work itself. Now they sometimes try to do something like this using surveys on profile sites and other similar methods, but I doubt that this will give at least some result.

In the case of works that do not require special costs in their creation (for example, music or books), the ideal option for me seems to be an Internet library with a paid subscription. In recent years, such services have really begun to appear more and more often, take at least the same Google Play Music or its analogues. Having paid a subscription fee, you can freely listen to any amount of any music, including offline, although there are a number of certain restrictions. For example, a downloaded song cannot be transferred to the player (at least, if it is not on Android) or presented to a friend (although some services give it to listen to it once or send a fragment). But if you really liked some composition very much, you can always buy it. This is both gratitude to the author and the opportunity to listen to it anytime, anywhere and on any device.


Market_mini Google Play Music. Google's service as a replacement for your computer's music collection

You could do something similar with books. Buying your favorite book would be optional, but it would give you a number of 'bonuses' – choice of format, color illustrations, branded cover or author's foreword. Something that is not exactly necessary, but still pleasant. There are also such attempts, but either the assortment there is very modest, or they are not on friendly terms with the law.

I don’t know how and in what services the issue of royalties to authors is resolved, but there is no particular problem in this. The easiest way is to distribute the collected amount according to the number of listens / views of the works. The method is a little more complicated – to invite users to distribute the cost of the subscription themselves among the authors they like. Considering that they paid this money anyway, one can count on a more or less impartial assessment.

With software, this method is unlikely to work, there are too many programs in the world and users have too different requirements. It is simply impossible to calculate a single subscription price here, as well as to equalize a gamer who plays a dozen games a month and a person who needs only MS Word. Now the system of subscriptions to specific programs is gaining popularity, which allows you to rent the necessary software for the required time. True, many take it with hostility, in my opinion, completely in vain. For example, the same MS Office for the whole family (5 computers plus five more mobile devices), even after the jump in the course, will cost 286 rubles per month. At the same time, there is no binding to the OS (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS) and bonuses in the form of space in the cloud and the web version of Office. Quite a reasonable price, which can hardly be called prohibitive. Moreover, there is no shortage of free office programs either, from Open Office and beyond. It is true that using a free program when you can hack a paid one is considered by some to be simply shameful.


Habit is second nature, and in our country for many years the situation was such that only a few people bought licensed software. First, the price in USD. often not just bite, but could cause a heart attack. And secondly, for this money it was impossible to count even on localization, because the pirates themselves translated games and programs into Russian. I am not even talking about the fact that licensed software was not on sale at every corner, to put it mildly.

Now the situation has changed long ago, there are no problems with localization and support, prices are usually set separately for each region. But many people are all too accustomed to the word 'license' being synonymous with 'rich idiot'. Even if the cost of the program is equal to the price of a pack of cigarettes. Of course, each person should have their own principles that cannot be overstepped. But the principle “freebies are sacred” hardly applies to them.

On the other hand, software developers and publishers would also benefit from being more flexible. Not everyone took care of even such an elementary thing as a test period or a demo version of the game. It looks like trying to sell a pig in a poke, which does not add points to the seller. There is nothing to say about different copy protection systems, which sometimes cause many times more problems for honest users than pirates. They work on the principle of “hit your own, strangers will be afraid.”

In some cases, it makes sense to even allow using the application for free. If a student wants to try his hand at a 3D editor or Photoshop, then what's the point in stopping him? Either he will abandon the program in a week, or he will be seriously interested in it, turning into a future potential client. Again, this is in the best interest of the developers themselves. Yes, maybe from a security point of view, this is not very cool and someone can unreasonably get a free copy of the program. Just what will it change if all especially cunning users have already mastered torrents a long time ago?

If we talk about games, then there used to be such a thing as shareware. And it was understood somewhat differently than what is understood in our days. The first Doom is a classic example of such a model. It could be freely distributed in any way and anyone could go through the first third of the game. But then, if the game really interested, they offered to pay. It's a pity that nowadays publishers who ventured to offer everyone to go through a third of the game for free (and without any F2P and other tricks there!) And personally upload it to torrents is something that is not particularly visible. Is it because after the first third of the 'exciting' gameplay there will be a sharp decrease in those who want to continue playing?


Instead of an afterword

I doubt that the situation with piracy and the fight for intellectual property rights can be solved by legislative means. In any case, until every user who opens the torrent begins to shoot on the spot. It can be solved only when all interested parties begin to take into account the interests of each other.

On the part of authors and publishers, this is creating friendly services and abandoning attempts to impose air taxes and fees for looking at food. On the part of users – an attempt to remember that any work should be paid for, and the principle “my house is on the edge, I don’t know anything” does not lead to good. The point here is not legal chicanery, but ordinary decency. Paying for a good book or buying a program that has saved you a lot of time and energy is like giving up a seat on the bus to an elderly person or giving your neighbor a salt shaker. Not so much law-abiding as elementary politeness. If, initially, the interests of the opponent are not worth a penny, then why expect him to think of you?

If we all fail to reach a compromise, 'plan B' will come into force, which is different in each industry. For example, in games it can be a massive transition to F2P rails, which is already happening, or a massive connection to Internet servers, which greatly complicates the life of players. There may be many options, but all of them are not very pleasant. And no 'crack' can solve such problems.


How do you feel about buying books, films, programs? Do you find music services with a monthly fee convenient, are you ready to rent the necessary software for a monthly price? What do you prefer to buy, and what do you want to torrent for?


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