Skip a commercial, go to jail.

The entertainment industry appears to be hell-bent not only on destroying any concept of fair use of copyrighted material, but is also out to make it a crime to use technology to skip commercials when viewing a pre-recorded DVD or television show. Oh, and it’ll also put into law your right to skip scenes of graphic sex or violence, which is kinda stupid as you already have that right. That is if your friendly neighborhood congressman can manage to get the bill pushed through the lame-duck session that starts this week.

The Senate might vote on HR2391 (.pdf), the Intellectual Property Protection Act, a comprehensive bill that opponents charge could make many users of peer-to-peer networks, digital-music players and other products criminally liable for copyright infringement. The bill would also undo centuries of “fair use”—the principle that gives Americans the right to use small samples of the works of others without having to ask permission or pay.

The bill lumps together several pending copyright bills including HR4077, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act, which would criminally punish a person who “infringes a copyright by … offering for distribution to the public by electronic means, with reckless disregard of the risk of further infringement.” Critics charge the vague language could apply to a person who uses the popular Apple iTunes music-sharing application.

The bill would also permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content—like a gory or sexually explicit scene—in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed language, viewers would not be allowed to use software or devices to skip commercials or promotional announcements “that would otherwise be performed or displayed before, during or after the performance of the motion picture,” like the previews on a DVD. The proposed law also includes language from the Pirate Act (S2237), which would permit the Justice Department to file civil lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

We’re going to put commercials on your DVDs then force you to sit through them and, by-fucking-God, you’re gonna LIKE IT!! None shall pass the Pepsi Cola ads!!! But we won’t bother lowering the price in return for forcing you to sit through our commercials, natch.

The Recording Industry Association of America vigorously defended the bill, saying it would provide a “common sense set of tools that will help law enforcement better deter and prosecute theft.”

“This legislation enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. Many pieces of it already have unanimously passed one house of Congress,” RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy wrote in an e-mail. “The intellectual property industries are one of our leading national exports, and it’s appropriate for the federal government to have a role in protecting those sectors from rampant piracy.”

Someone please explain to me how prohibiting one from skipping commercials is a form of protection against rampant piracy. Every time technology and copyright have clashed in the past it was copyright that was changed to accommodate. This is the first time that technology is being forced to change and the sad part is these people don’t realize they’re only going to make things worse for themselves. The folks who want to pirate this stuff are going to continue to do so as there isn’t a protection scheme you can make that they can’t break. Meanwhile they’re going to make their products so unappealing to the folks who purchase them legitimately that those folks will just not bother after awhile. This will naturally lead to the entertainment industry jumping up and down and blaming the loss of sales on all those damned pirates instead of their own incompetence and a new round of draconian legislation will be slip through congress on the grease of major political contributions to only compound the situation.

I really hope I’m wrong in that prediction, but I have a bad feeling that I’m not.

22 thoughts on “Skip a commercial, go to jail.

  1. Is there technology to skip DVD commercials? Where can I get it?  *ding dong* Oh hi- you say you’re from the RIAA?  Please don’t point that thing at me- I’m unarmed. Ow! Okay, I promise- I won’t skip over the ads anymore. Ow! Okay, okay, I’ll watch them too, and ow! ow! I won’t turn the sound off.  I can’t promise I’ll buy the products, though… ow! ow! OW!

  2. Let me get this straight; I’ll be forced to watch a series of coming attractions that actually came 5 years ago every time I sit down to view a DVD that I purchased 5 years ago. Woo Hoo! Thanks RIAA, what would we do without you? Oh yeah, download steady cam versions or screeners without the coming attractions. Silly me.

  3. “Centuries of fair use”??
    The first copyright act was the statute of Anne in 1710.
    The fair use doctrine only came about by a particular case in 1840s, and only in the 1976 copyright act was fair use codified.
    Well I guess if 1 and 1/2 century is more than one century so it can be considered centuries…

    Now as a person who is quite technologically I am sure you realise that peer to peer sharing is vastly different from tapes. With tapes the amount of sharing is limited to one’s circle of friends but with peer to peer you can get what you want instantly.

    The bill does not actually in my brief glance seek to shut down peer to peer but rather it seeks to make them responsible if they fail to adhere to certain standards.

    In my opinion, you are right in the sense that these laws will not reduce piracy. What I often argue for is for strict criminal enforcement. Actually sending some of these people to jail or juvenile detention would be the solution. I can’t wait for the day the distribution and download of songs and movies illegally is made into a fellony and some person in California gets prosecuted under it and gets hit with a 3 strike.

    Thinking about it, these laws if implemented and there are successful prosecution then it would help resolve your complain relating to protection scheme. It is the lack of judicial protection that self help measure of protection scheme is used so if copyright violaters are all prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law then protection scheme would be reduce or removed for it does cost them money to make these protections.

    It is wrong to simply claim that the fall in sales is simply a result of bad products because a simple look at peer to peer network will show you that there are lots of people exchanging the so called crappy products. The industry has for years not taken any action and tried to rely on education but apparently it is not working.

    I blame the people who download and violate copyright for the protection scheme and not the producers. The producers at least have a legitimate reason in attempting to protect their products from being stolen.

  4. Maybe instead of taking legal action against their consumer base these industries should try to give their consumers more for their money.  If the recording industry and the film industry weren’t so vastly overpaid across the boards, maybe the price of a CD or DVD would go down enough to make people not feel the need to go get pirated content.  Also, if DVDs came loaded with more special material that wasn’t available on video rips, many fans might want to buy that for the extras.

    The commercial thing is ridiculous and shouldn’t even be legal, but I’m sure I’ll be proven “wrong” on that one…

  5. Providing more for one’s money is a tactic to encourage more people to buy NOT a justification for piracy.

    The price of a good no matter how high does not give one the justification to steal such a good.

    Do you say that perhaps shops shoud sell their clothes, books, etc cheaper so that consumers get more for their money and people would not shoplift.

    No matter how much value you give, you cannot compete with free. Also what is to stop people from removing the extra contents and pirating it online.

    The reason for the advertisement is obviously profits but in part I believe it is in reaction to losses from piracy, they need to make up for the loss. So if the party to blame is not the producers but the pirates which because of their actions reduce the utility of people who pay for the products.

    Therefore I say one must hit the pirates hard. If mere civil litigation with monetary payouts could reduce the amount of people pirating the products, imagine what a few jail terms selectively spread out over the country including colleges, high schools can do.

  6. Maybe they’ll offer a “commercial free” version for an extra 2 bucks.  I might well pay it.

    If they don’t, someone will write an app that’ll allow you to strip the commercials. 

    And then they’ll distribute the app on Kazaa.

  7. Once again we have the industry refusing to embrace new technologies and finding ways to exploit them for market advantage.  The business model works, as gaming and software industry has clearly shown.  Legislation such as this will just further the divide between technology and the artists.

    I’ve enjoyed ripping DVDs to PocketPC for awhile now and this is just going to be one more hurdle to overcome.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to figure out a way to compress an extra Pepsi commercial so it will fit on a memory stick.

  8. First I’d like to say, “Pop Tarts, you’re an asshole!”

    Not that we got that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

    I don’t understand these people who want to protect these cock sucking, criminal business assholes in the first place.

    I think both the movie and music industry need to recognize that no one is interested in their shitty ass products anymore.

    I’ll be damned if I spend $15-$20 dollars on a music cd (it’s not even worth the plastic it’s burned on). And I’ll be damned again if I go and spend $8-$10 dollars on a movie ticket just to see Hollywood’s horrible pictures (Lord Of The Rings, Spider-Man 2, Harry Potter, and etc).

    I’m glad that WE the consumers have found ways around the corporate pigs’ money bucket. And pretty soon, all those criminal business assholes will have to bow down.


  9. This has me totally speechless. Since when can someone force you to watch an advertisment, or sex and violence scenes? I would have to say some money is being exchanged somewhere.

        A new low for our society

  10. Do you say that perhaps shops shoud sell their clothes, books, etc cheaper so that consumers get more for their money and people would not shoplift.

    No, but it would be ludicrous for clothes makers to attach advertisements to the clothes and expect them not to be removed for loss of advertising revenue.

    Adding value increases profit.  Advertising to a captive consumer audience that is not receiving any value for their investment is subversive and pirating will become more commonplace.

  11. Wasn’t it in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where people HAD to have their television on all day long?

  12. Wow talk about hypocrisy, Ben. You cannot even keep your statements straight in one little post.

    On one hand you claim “no one is interested in their shitty ass products anymore.”

    Then on the other hand you still want to watch their shows. “WE the consumers have found ways around the corporate pigs’ money bucket.”

    I guess in a society where there are some people who consistently link 9/11 to Iraq invasion, preach love and tolerance and then turn around to condemn homosexuality, telling the truth or engaging simple logic is kind of difficult.

    Oh well I guess criminals such as Ben need to allay their conscience by claiming that their theft is not a crime and that it is the victims of crime who are the criminals.

  13. Some complex issues here.  Yes, the recorded entertainment corporations are fat cats who rip us off.  On the other hand, it’s getting harder and harder for musicians (I know lots of them) to make a living because of pirate copies.  Not the stinking rich pop stars, but the little guys.  I guess I’m for copy protection without ads, perhaps with a surcharge as Nowiser suggests.  No easy answers here.

    Stoic- I think it was in F.A.K.K. Heavy Metal…

  14. Just a question for you guys as it seems the majority posted on this thread are anti-piracy.

    Do you still consider it theft if the intellectual property in question is “out of print” AND are not being distributed?

    Say for example your favorite record (or maybe even cd) is ruined but you still want a copy of your favorite songs, only to find out that the album is no longer produced or sold.  Would seeking to obtain a “pirated” copy of said album truly be theft?

    This is the same grey area that game enthusiasts traverse called Abandonware.  While not technically legal, Abandonware providers aren’t hard to find.  Also given the “understood” policy of only providing games that are no longer published AND with no known plans of republishing by their parent companies, Abandonware sites seem to receive a “turning a blind eye” by still existing game companies. 

    Is this theft or “fair use”?

  15. Say for example your favorite record (or maybe even cd) is ruined but you still want a copy of your favorite songs, only to find out that the album is no longer produced or sold.  Would seeking to obtain a “pirated

  16. Pop-tarts, It is no way the black and white issue that you portray it as.  By physically stealing something another is directly deprived of said object, by reproducing something and giving it away for free nothing is materially lost by any party, the only thing lost is a certain probability of potential sale to the person who receives the free object. 

    The comparison to walking out of a store with a good under you shirt is a paltry example; a better one would be buying the good, massively copying it and handing it out for free in front of the store where it was originally sold.  If the government should step in at all in this case to protect the industry is a matter of opinion which varies widely.  If the federal government does decide to step in, something such a jail time for this type of actions would be an absurd misuse of the penal system, which should really be used to remove truly harmful people from society, and hopefully rehabilitate them.

    This doesn’t even touch on the idea of passing a law outlawing skipping advertisements.  I have a hard time even imagining a rational defense of that…

  17. huh…so tabing in for paragraphs doesnt work…  Imagine I used lines between paragraphs like everyone else.

  18. Miriam- I can’t get very exercised about the imminent demise of English as a major- hell, everyone knows those liberal arts types don’t pull their weight in society, and imagine how Bush would sound if he’d majored in English!  Anyway, the Bible is in the public domain, so what do you want?

    James- right.  There are grey areas, and there are no obvious lines between fair use and theft.  Making it a crime to skip over ads is a bit much, though…

  19. From a strictly legal/illegal standpoint what Pop Tarts says is quite true, but the question is should the copyright system work the way it currently does and are the current attempts to force technology to bend to copyright the right approach to take?

    I don’t disagree with Pop Tart’s assessment that (currently) distributing copyrighted material is wrong as it is against the law nor do I disagree with the idea that developers of intellectual property deserve compensation for their efforts (otherwise, why would they bother?). At the same time I don’t think the current copyright laws are the correct approach to take nor do I agree with some of the steps taken to enforce them. This is another one of those topics that takes a lot of explanation on my part, though, as I have to get into the history of copyright as well as what I believe to be aspects of human nature in order to make my point so it’s been a planned entry for awhile now. I’ll see if I can’t pull something together on it soon.

    Alex, I put line breaks into your entry. Of course tabbing doesn’t work. This is HTML, not Microsoft Word. wink

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