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Bevin Carnes Headshot

Copyright Is Complicated

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Copyright is complicated. The issues aren't black and white, and if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, there's a lot of complexity involved in why the current copyright laws were formed, and why it's so important that they be enforced.

Economies and industries are complex organisms that even Harvard MBAs have trouble understanding and controlling at times. I understand that it has taken a lot of great minds (beginning with James Madison for crying out loud!) to get the copyright laws in this country to where they are now. I'm always baffled by how many people who've perhaps read about an issue for five minutes or so have immaturely lashed out at an industry they barely understand, just because they want something for free, and the owner of that something wants them to pay for it. Some, I suppose, are not simply acting immature, but are actually thirteen years old. Them, I understand!

I'm amazed, for example, by how many supporters of the free culture movement have tried to tell me how the film industry works. That's pretty funny, I think, because I studied filmmaking in college, I've won a Student Academy Award, worked at two of the major studios, and am currently working as an independent filmmaker. I'm also an I.A.T.S.E. member who has seen my union benefits dwindle over the past 3 years. So I'm always puzzled when people who know next to nothing about how my industry works try to instruct me on how it supposedly works, and why it's not fair that they should have to pay anything for the work that I've created.

One of the favorite arguments seems to be about how "greedy" companies are for wanting to be paid for content. That's odd, because when a company in my industry profits, its employees get paid (and not laid off), and they get to pay their mortgage and feed their families, etc. When someone steals a song, that person doesn't have to pay a dollar or so (which probably doesn't mean much to him in the long run), but the power of the collective decision of millions of people not to pay all those single dollars destroys the American dreams of hundreds of hard-working people's families in the industry they've chosen not to support. Oh, and the pirate site owners get the sweetest deal of all -- they profit from the advertising they sell from putting someone else's work online illegally. Still think we're the greedy ones?

So, I'm calling on you, anonymous downloader and free culture supporter, to step up and be an adult. Admit that perhaps you don't really understand the issues the way that people whose livelihoods depend on them do, and it probably wouldn't kill you to just pay that dollar when you want to download a song, or that $15 when you want to download a movie.