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SOPA? PIPA? – Who Are The REAL Pirates Here?

The intended legislation by the Americans on SOPA and PIPA has stalled in face of worldwide opposition. Wikipedia led the way with a complete shutdown, (unless you switched off Javascript, when it behaved as normal), other websites took similar action, and AVAAZ presented a petition with 1.25 million signatures, which has now grown to over 3.25 million, and is still climbing.

It is glaringly obvious that the public does not want anybody messing with the Internet – its fine, just the way it is!

Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner for the digital agenda, tweeted: “Glad tide is turning on Sopa: don’t need bad legislation when should be safeguarding benefits of open net.” The EU is also struggling with its attempts to tackle on-line piracy. Kroes favours a less invasive approach, tweeting: “Speeding is illegal too, but you don’t put speed bumps on the motorway.”

Rick Falkvinge, founder and first party leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, has much more to say on the subject. Take a look at his article “Nothing New Under The Copyright-Eclipsed Sun”, which can be found at http://torrentfreak.com/nothing-new-under-the-copyright-eclipsed-sun-110218/
For more information, go to the Reference Material on http://falkvinge.net/reference/

But even this does not go far enough. To understand where the problem lies, we need to get down to fundamentals.

Any company producing a worthwhile product, or range of products, needs to make a fair profit to survive. From this fair profit, it will have to pay for all day-to-day running costs, and for investments necessary to ensure that it will stay viable in the future.

Nobody in their right mind could possibly have any complaint about that. The only point of debate is likely to be “What is a Fair Profit”? From experience, I would say that a company with only a 5% profit margin would be struggling to survive. A 10% profit margin would be much more comfortable, 15% would be even better, and 20% would be almost living in luxury. Of course, it must be remembered that profit margins alone are not the answer – we need sales too. It is the combination of sales and profit margin that provides the income on which the company will flourish, or otherwise.

However, it is not quite as simple as all that. There is a difference between types of product, which is basically the cause of all the confusion.

A company making cars, computers, televisions – anything tangible – is easy to deal with. If they want to sell one of their products, they first have to make it.

A company producing software, on the other hand, produces one original article, and then sells copies of that original to its customers. The article that is being sold is a Compact Disk or a DVD, with appropriate packaging – all in all a value of about $2 at a guess. Add 50 cents for a hefty profit margin of 25%, and we are up to $2.50. But no, the actual price of this software is way beyond the value of the delivered goods. Under these circumstances, it is virtually impossible to see when the cost of development of the software has been recovered, and equally impossible to tell when the “Fair Profit Margin” has been reached. One thing however is absolutely certain, profits won’t stop at that point for successful companies, and are likely to get into ‘impossible’ realms such as 1000%, or more. Do some investigation on Microsoft’s costs and profits, and you will see what I mean.

Fortunately, we do have an alternative. Open Source software is great! It may not be quite so convenient to use, but once you become familiar with it, it will do everything you need – at no cost!

Music, is unfortunately another matter, but the same principles apply here also. Consider a factory worker who is paid an hourly rate. He is only paid once for every hour that he works, and if he asked to be paid more than once, he would be laughed out of the factory. Musicians, on the other hand, seem to expect things called ‘Royalties’, which are payable on every copy of their work sold. In end effect, they are asking to be paid more than once for doing the work, but are, surprisingly, not laughed out of court. Musicians can make money by doing live performances, and anyone who has ever seen a live performance will appreciate the huge difference between that and a recording – it really is like comparing chalk with cheese!

Drug companies are another case. They claim that the costs of development are so high that they need to maintain high prices, however, nobody checks to see when the development costs have been recovered, or to see if their profit margin is fair. Furthermore, by preventing other companies from making the same product much cheaper, and selling at a correspondingly lower price, they are denying access to drugs that could be saving lives to those who cannot afford to buy them. In other words, they are killing people.

The Internet is making many things possible that were not available before, that the middle-men, the so-called entrepreneurs, most certainly want to suppress and control. For example, authors can now make more money by selling their books on-line than they would from copyright royalties, and they don’t even have to look for a publisher who is willing to print for them. If you want to know how to do this, go to “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing”, at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

If you are a musician, you can post your work for download on the Internet, and charge for each download, or not, as you wish. Even if you don’t charge for it, you are certainly advertising your work, and if people like it, they will want to buy your records anyway. The Die jungen Virtuosen have decided to make everything they have produced available for free download. Go to http://www.psicolor.de/virtuosen/index.php?target=music and see if you like what they have to offer.

If you haven’t seen it already, you should all make the effort to download “Steal This Film”. There is no copyright on it; in fact it is rather the opposite to a copyright – you are requested to freely spread it around as much as possible. A quick search on Google will give you a link.

Basically we have several problem areas; Copyright, Patents, Trademarks, Industrial Design Rights, and Trade Secrets, which are all grouped under the general heading of Intellectual Property. Intellectual Property has been described as “The Oil of the 21st Century”, but this is incorrect. What it really is is this – “The Booty of the 21st Century”, and the people that want it are the real pirates!

Do you remember the old adage – “if you want to save money, cut out the middle-men”? It still holds true. But strange that we now find Prime Ministers and Governments now encouraging people to become entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is a middle-man – precisely the thing that we are trying to get rid of!

Why are they doing this? Because they have nothing tangible left to sell!

The whole corrupt system of Intellectual Property needs to be re-thought and transformed into something that will help, not hinder. For starters, we could simply say that protection terms should be drastically reduced – a maximum of 2 years would be a reasonable figure. If investment costs cannot be recovered, and a fair profit margin reached, in that period of time, then the company probably doesn’t deserve to continue in business anyway – let it go to the wall.

Be prepared for a hard battle. We need to take this rotten system down!

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