Well, things haven’t changed since last year, so it’s time for another of my long-winded rants on the wide-ranging evils inflicted on us by Big Media. They are at it again, so I’m stepping up on my soap box to spout my opinions about their behavior again.

Judge Marilyn Hall Patel recently granted the evil MPAA a preliminary injunction against RealDVD who created software which allowed consumers to copy their DVD collection onto their computers without removing the copy protection. This is a blow to consumers everywhere because it potentially eliminates one route to an amazing digital future where you could legally carry your entire movie collection around with you just like you carry your CD collection now.

But this decision isn’t Judge Patel’s fault. Her hands were tied by the actions of a Congress that is apparently wholly owned by rich "Big Media." The blame lies squarely with "Big Media" companies who essentially bribed and cajoled Congress into passing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) under the guise of protecting their copyrights. The law was passed with zero regard for how it would affect consumer rights, because that is exactly what Big Media wanted.

With the DMCA, Congress destroyed consumer rights. We already have the legal right to make a copy of media we buy (just Google "Fair Use"), but the DMCA made it illegal to remove copy protection from media. SO, the evil media companies just put copy protection on everything, which conveniently bypasses our right to copy our media. Sneaky, right?

Well, RealDVD figured out a way to copy the media to your hard drive and play it without removing the copy protection. The copy protection is still intact, so technically it doesn’t break the DMCA. Making a copy is protected by Fair Use. So, this is completely legal. Yet, Big Media still went ballistic. They ostensibly sued RealDVD for breach of contract (which RealDVD technically DID do), but they sued with the main intent of preventing RealDVD from helping us exercise our Fair Use rights to copy our media. Big Media paid good money to get the DMCA passed. They don’t want anyone finding a way around it and messing with their cash cow.

What should really happen is that somebody should challenge the legality of putting copy protection (Digital Rights Management – DRM) on media to begin with. It inhibits our Fair Use rights. After all, if they can’t legally put the DRM on, then it doesn’t matter if it’s illegal to remove it. But that probably won’t come out of this case. This case is about evil companies squeezing more money from paying consumers.

So why would Congress basically make it illegal to exercise a right we’ve had for a long time? Because they are crooks. Our lawmakers are bought and paid for by Big Media companies with deep pockets. Despite being OUR elected representatives, and working in a government we finance with our taxes, lawmakers care ZERO about consumers. That’s because they get far more money from lobbyists than what we pay them. Yes, our system is severely messed up. Further, any time somebody proposes that we outlaw lobbyists, it gets voted down by Congress, who coincidentally are the primary people benefiting from the current arrangement. Big surprise.

If ANY of our lawmakers actually cared about voters, they would introduce a Digital Media Consumers Bill of Rights. That law would protect our right to use any piece of media we buy on any piece of equipment we own. It would make it illegal for ANYONE to infringe upon that right by using DRM or by tying media to specific hardware. Of course, if any of our lawmakers cared about voters, they would outlaw lobbying by special interests. That’s not going to happen anytime soon. So, what can we do?

Big Media companies are squarely at the root of this evil being enacted upon consumers. The RIAA and the MPAA are organizations populated by evil companies who abuse the legal rights of their paying customers in a quest to milk more cash from us regardless of the morality of their tactics. DRM does NOT stop piracy. Piracy has escalated even as DRM has become more strict and more common. DRM only hurts legitimate paying customers. Yet, they continue to use DRM. It’s obvious why they really use it and it has nothing to do with piracy. That’s just a cover.

They use DRM (and the DMCA) to support a business model which makes zero sense in a digital world by turning our government into a media-owned private police force. They bypass our previously established "Fair Use" right to make a copy of media we already bought for our own personal use. Fair Use predates the DMCA. The DMCA doesn’t even outlaw Fair Use. It just creates a sweet loophole for Big Media to screw law-abiding consumers. The DMCA makes it illegal to remove DRM. So, the evil studios simply put DRM on everything, which conveniently sidesteps our Fair Use rights. I believe that was their real intent from the start. In my opinion, their act of pushing through the DMCA never had anything to do with stopping piracy. That was just the reason they had to give publicly in order to push it through. The law was designed to sustain their failing business model and generate revenue through legislation.

How does the DMCA (and DRM) support Big Media’s business model?

I’ll explain. If we want to use our purchased media on more than one device, Big Media bought enough legislators to force us to buy multiple copies of the same product, when we already have the legal right to make a copy. They did this by basically authoring the DMCA without any input from consumer rights groups and pushing it through Congress by buying votes through their lobbyists. It is an evil and backhanded way to force legal, paying customers to give them more money for something we already bought. The DMCA is written to help them rip off paying customers by sidestepping our rights and has zero impact on real world piracy. DRM and the DMCA don’t stop piracy and never have. Only the simple-minded would think this is about copyright theft.

This case is all about Big Media continuing to use the DMCA to obstruct our previously established right to make a copy of media, all so they can continue to milk us for far more cash than they should legally be entitled to get. RealDVD breached their contract because they believe the restrictions the MPAA placed on them should be illegal. I agree with them. RealDVD tried in good faith to obey the law, as it is written. They required your original copy-protected media in order to copy it to your hard drive. They also kept the copy protection intact, which means you can’t just give copies to all your friends or sell copies on a street corner. So, any notion that this case is about preventing piracy is nuts.

It’s about Big Media bypassing our Fair Use rights on media we already bought. It’s about milking their paying customers, not inhibiting thieves. The fact that the MPAA is even pursuing this case shows they hate their paying customers. They abuse our rights only so they can rip us off. They put restrictions on RealDVD which should be illegal. That’s why RealDVD is fighting and I support them in their fight.

My suggestion? I hate to say it, because I’ve bought more media than just about anybody I know (850+ movies, 600+ CDs, hundreds of books, hundreds of pieces of software), but the only solution that will work is we just need to stop buying their products. I’ve given these companies the benefit of the doubt for far too long. Do we really want these companies to keep doing this to us indefinitely? Do we really want to keep paying $14 for a CD which costs 18 cents to make? Do we really want to keep paying $20-25 for a DVD that costs $1.50 to make? Do we really want to buy 4 copies of a movie so we can put it on 3 iPods and watch one copy at home? Do we really want to give them more cash so they can buy more politicians and eliminate more of our rights? I sure don’t.

These companies are doing things the same way they have for many decades. They don’t want to move into the future. They like the huge money machine they have now. They are fat, lazy, bitter old men who hate change and want no part of it. These companies are the only thing holding us back from quickly moving into a far better future for all digital media. These companies are the real problem. The RIAA should be killed off first, with the MPAA to follow if they don’t change their ways.

We need to replace these dinosaur companies with modern digital-age companies who put customers needs and desires first. If Google or Amazon were running these companies, we would see a total change in how we watch movies or listen to music within a very short time. Our media collection would be stored in a virtual library online, easily accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device we own. The media would cost less to purchase and be far more versatile. Progress and innovation would be enhanced, not hindered. Old distribution models would be dumped in favor of purely digital transmissions. Every aspect of the industry would be better for consumers if Google or Amazon replaced Big Media companies. What we need are companies who can turn that dream into a reality.

Just as an example, can anyone explain to me why music CDs are EVER made in advance and shipped on trucks to a store? It’s a freaking digital file. Transmit the CD to the store over the Internet, store it on a hard drive, and only burn it when customers actually buy it. At a minimum, this would save manufacturing and shipping all those really crappy CDs which never actually sell. It also saves tons of shipping costs for the ones which DO sell. It could also allow people the option of putting the CD on an SD card, iPod, or thumb drive instead of a disk.

Who needs CDs anyway? I bought CDs to avoid DRM. I also bought CDs so I had control over the quality of the digital file. But, want to know where all my CDs are now? They’re stored. I put the files on my computer, threw away the bulky CD cases, and then stored the disks in binders. Every one of them was pressed in a factory, packaged, warehoused, and shipped through multiple distribution points to end up on a store shelf. Then, I bought it and drove it home where I copied the files onto my hard drive, threw the case in a landfill, and put the CD in storage never to be used again.

That’s a huge waste of resources and money just to support an ancient distribution model that a bunch of old geezers at big media companies simply refuse to abandon. The CD started as digital files on hard drives and ended as digital files on my hard drive with a bunch of expensive, wasteful stupidity in between. All of it created just so those Big Media idiots could stay rich. My suggestion? Cut out all of that middle crap and pass the huge savings on to me and the original artist. I’d buy a lot more.

What about iTunes or Amazon, you ask? Well, one thing I hate is that I lose control over the quality. Yes, iTunes does let you cut out the middle distribution part (mostly), but instead of it being a lot cheaper, it’s even more of a rip off than the CDs. There is no way that copying a dozen digital files from a server should cost nearly as much as pressing, shipping, warehousing, merchandising, and selling a real CD. Yet, they are priced far too similarly. Plus, the quality of what you get is worse.

This is because evil Big Media is inflating the price far beyond reasonable. Selling 50,000 copies of a digital file on a server costs only a tiny bit more than selling 1 copy. Their markup is insane, even if you spread out the initial production costs. There is no manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, or distribution channel. Plus, even with the vastly inflated price and vastly reduced cost to distribute, the original artist doesn’t get any more money at all. I’m guessing it all goes into the pockets of Big Media, so they can buy more Congressmen.

Remember, I said they need to cut out the middle processes and pass the savings on to me and the artist, not hoard the savings. Using the immense cost savings of digital distribution to make themselves far richer isn’t any better than keeping the price of new release CDs at $14 for the past 25 years despite the fact that the cost of making them has dropped to pennies compared to the high original cost decades ago (about $8 each originally?). Both practices are just plain wrong, but when you have an entire industry colluding on product pricing, and Congress in their pocket protecting them, the consumer gets hosed.

If the HUGE savings of digital distribution of media files was actually passed along to the consumer, media would become so cheap that piracy would simply disappear. If it’s dirt cheap and extremely easy to obey the law, why break it? Plus, everyone would own more media. The door might even be open to keeping all of our media securely online and easily accessing it from all of the devices we own. All of the media files could be stored once and anyone who owns it could point to that same file, just like on Amazon’s Kindle service for books. But if the Big Media companies have their way, this bright future will never happen. They want things to stay the way they’ve always been.

We basically need to kill off the root source of all these problems. If you don’t kill the root, the wart just keeps coming back. "Big Media" is a major blight upon our digital media future. They are the worst sort of wart that just won’t go away. We just need to put them out of business. So, think very carefully before you give them another dime of your money for ANY of their products. The only way things will change is if WE change them. If we stop buying, perhaps fear of bankruptcy will bring them to their senses before they die off completely. If not, then good riddance.

So, maybe it’s time to stop buying their products. Personally, I think we should all hold hands and loudly wish every single one of those evil studio execs and their vast number of lawyers the worst possible life followed by a slow and painful death. What they are doing to their once loyal customers is just plain wrong and I can only hope karma makes it right.

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