SOPA Opera

Did you hear the noise? The recent SOPA ordeal has drawn many questions as to why we need legislation to stop piracy. I cannot help but express much dissatisfaction with the media industry, specifically music, and their inability to adjust to the advances in technology and our dependence on information and communications networks. The SOPA legislation has been considered to be a battlefield between Hollywood and other media affiliates & government and websites & US citizens. So how did this issue start you ask?

US lawmakers proved their incompetence in a way I have never seen before. On October 26, 2011, H.R. 3261 aka SOPA was presented and accomplished this rewarding feat. The bill became a major controversy and stimulated much debate as to how the United States could enforce piracy laws without violating the civil liberties of US citizens. I cannot help but to be concerned, I am a veteran, college student, and parent in need of the internets’ vast resources at the lowest possible price. But at who’s cost? The discussion has mainly focused on questioning how to measure the infraction on our civil liberties rather than the questioning the ethics and competence of Hollywood and affiliates. Allow me to offer, humbly, a quick recap of the parties involved in this discussion.

Silicon Valley (websites) argue the bill is, in most cases, ambiguous and raises many questions as to how much power is given and to whom it is given to. Most citizens are against the bill because it could lead to a rise in internet costs and infringe on our civil liberties. Certain websites feel they had no voice in the legislation and the bill favors Hollywood and Co. Contrary to the websites, Hollywood and other SOPA supporters argue the bill is not about civil liberties but about apprehending and preventing copyright infringement and piracy. They also claim our fairly elected congress has changed the bill to meet the previous demands of skeptics. Together they agree that online piracy is stealing, stealing is wrong, and it needs to be stopped. But, many have neglected the fact that media producers and intellectual property holders have failed to adjust ethically, to the advances in technology. Why do they still sell discs in stores? Why are tracks sold online sold at the same rate of a track on a discs album?

For example, I recently walked into a Best Buy this past weekend to find the latest Jason Mraz album only to learn the album sold at just over a dollar per song. I was compelled to ask, why spend the trip and money on the album when I could buy them online? Why do I have to pay for the tracks I don’t want on the disc? I am not an advocate of theft, but I can understand why some of us would participate in “file sharing” or pirating as opposed to purchasing the content. Furthermore, when I looked for an album single, I found that the single is sold at roughly half the costs of the full album and often contained other mediocre side tracks. In other words, here is a product with what you want at half the costs except with more junk included in the price! So…why bother buying the discs?

The music industry has continued to market their products in local neighborhood stores. However, the increasing standardization in modern technology has enabled more users to access content via mobile phones or iPods and has created a dilemma for the music industry. I had realized, while perusing through the ever shrinking isles of Best Buy, that the price of a discs album is generally more than the costs of purchasing the content digitally. For example, the latest Jason Mraz album (Love is a Four Letter Word) released this past year contains 13 tracks and sells for $11.99 at your local Best Buy. Meanwhile, each song on the album sells on iTunes for $1.29. So, if you want to purchase nine of the thirteen songs on the new album than you would end up paying the costs of the full album on discs. Does this make sense? No, in fact, it is ludicrous that we have to pay about the same price of a song but without the disc. Also, iTunes sells the whole album for $10.99, but then again, why buy the whole album and take up extra space with songs we don’t want? What to do? Buy online or buy the hard copy?

When we purchase music on a disc, we pay for the material of the content (CD, DVD, Blu-Ray) and the rights to the intellectual property (the songs or music videos). If the average album contains roughly 13 tracks, and only nine of them are worth the costs, than why are we paying a more than a dollar per track? Music entities have continued to capitalize on our dependency on media. However, their greed is beginning to catch up to them. What many of us have not realized is that the costs of a track without the disc should not cost even dollar.  They are compelling us to pay for the material in whatever form they present.  If we buy the CD, then we pay X amount for the album, and roughly X amount per track including the tracks we may not want.  When we buy online, we pay for individual tracks but more than the average price of a track compared to the album.  What do we do when we lose our disc or media storage device?

Unlike software companies, media distributors have neglected to offer any registration keys that would enable consumers to reacquire the intellectual property they had already bought. We can make copies of disc, but, why spend the extra money on CD’s?  I cannot help feeling frustrated for having made additional trips to the store to buy the same content I already had purchased rights to. Does this make you want to buy content on a disc? Unfortunately, the media industry has yet to grasp the concept of innovation. As a result, they will continue to find themselves in recurring legal battles. The current economic conditions are no benefit to their cause, meanwhile, the costs of content is still the same. Additionally, they will continue to lose out on potential profits until the music industry suddenly has an epiphany that changes their method of distribution. Until then, piracy will more than likely continue by some means until they expand their horizon.