With everything going on this week involving copyright infringement, government legislation, criminal indictments and retaliatory hacking, I felt the need to provide a voice of reason… because some of you people are out of your goddamned minds.
The questionable pieces of governmental legislation, SOPA and PIPA, are dangerous. They’re dangerous not because they’re designed to remove pirated materials from the internet, but because they are so poorly worded and barely even understood by those in charge of passing said legislation that the protests against them are absolutely necessary. The power in those bills is so broad that just about anything could be removed from the internet at any time without any due process whatsoever. They need to be stopped.
Opposing these bills does not mean you are pro-piracy though. That’s important to point out. Because there are actually three factions in this fight: the government rushing to pass the poorly defined bills, the rational people who want them to slow the hell down and realize that what they’re doing will do more harm than good, and then the people who would be so totes angers if they can’t steal their My Little Pony episodes anymore and will have no choice but to hax0rs the world because they think everything should be free.
You do not have the inalienable right to steal movies, music, games, books, or TV shows. You do not have ANY right to steal movies, music, games, books or TV shows. There is nothing in the constitution protecting your right to be entertained. If you steal these items, you have no right to get angry at those upholding copyright laws. You can feel disappointed, sure, that your gravy train of free entertainment is over. But mad at “the man”? No sir.
Many pro-piracy arguments revolve around the assumption that “the studios” charge “outrageous sums of money” for “mediocre products”. This may be true. In fact, it pretty much is. Content holders think their products are worth WAY more than they actually are. Doesn’t mean you get to just take it because you don’t think it’s worth paying for. Argue the semantics of stealing a physical object vs. a digital object all you want. You’re still stealing it, and you have no right to do so.
Are the studios to blame for many of their own problems? You can certainly argue that. Charging outrageous sums of money to companies like Netflix just because they’ve stumbled upon a streaming model that people actually want is egregious. If you give people reasonable options to access your content, most people will use those options. I pay for HBO, however my satellite provider will not allow me to watch HBOGO on my TV because it conflicts with their agreements regarding their On Demand selection. HBOGO has content that is not available On Demand. I would like to watch this content on my TV, like other people with similar technology and television service, but I’m not allowed. This is the kind of nonsense I’m talking about that drives consumers mad.
Do I download from torrent sites? Yes I do. Come at me bro. But I would welcome my day in court to defend anything I’ve ever downloaded. Is all piracy wrong? In the eyes of the law, yes. And I can accept the consequences if it ever comes to that. However, these are my rules:
1. If the movie in question is out of print, not available on any streaming service or has never been released on a current video format, then that’s something I have no problem with downloading. If I cannot give the original creators or current copyright holders any money, then it should make no difference how I obtain the product in question. Last year the wife and I watched The Legend of Billie Jean. It was not available on any streaming platform, and had only made it as far as VHS as far as home video is concerned. I could have bought a used VHS copy on Ebay or Amazon for $50+, but what good does that do? Give some yahoo who found the tape at a flea market some scratch? No. Instead I found a high-def capture from a television broadcast of the film a year or two earlier. So we watched that, and it was glorious. Had it been on DVD at the time, we would have just bought it. Didn’t have that option.
To be clear, I’m not talking about downloading a Blu-ray rip of The Expendables because it’s late at night and you don’t want to drive to one of your 47 local Redboxes or pay the $8 a month charge for Netflix. Downloading anything so readily available from dozens of legit sources is piracy.
2. If my DVR flips out or there’s a service outage of some kind, I will download a television show that was missed if I have no other option. Am I going to pay iTunes or Amazon $2-$3 because my $180 satellite TV service went to shit one night? Hell no. I pay my satellite bill and I wasn’t going to watch any commercials in that particular program anyway. And Hulu’s new restrictions about new episodes of a series not being available until 8 days after originally airing? Do you know how retarded that is? By that logic, you can never watch a show live again. You can never get caught up with a weekly show, forever one episode behind until that series ends its run.
3. Is there any modern way to play my classic video games? Say, the Atari 5200? No? Most TVs don’t even have the right connections anymore? Well I can download the library and emulate it on a device of my choice. That’s perfectly acceptable to me. Again, there’s no way to give the original creators or current copyright holders one single penny for that kind of stuff, which I would happily do if there was the option.
Am I “in the wrong” in all three of these instances? Technically yes. But if my source for out of print movies suddenly got shut down, I’d be disappointed but not filled with furious anger against the US Government. The government does a metric ton of shady shenanigans, but going after Megaupload via criminal indictments isn’t one of them. If they don’t have a case, they won’t get convicted.
If you don’t like the policies and practices of the studios, then don’t support them. Use your money on something else, like a vacation or a sporting event. That’s how you change things. Stealing something you don’t think is worth paying for still attaches a value to that item. The studios tally up illegal downloads and assign a dollar value, concluding that they just lost X amount of dollars and then employing more and more efforts to get people to stop stealing their product. If you remove that number from the equation, THEN you’ll start to see some real changes in the way content holders value their product. If there was no piracy and studio profits continued to spiral downwards, they’d change their business model.
The point I’m trying to make here is simple: pay for your entertainment. And if you support Anonymous and their retribution against those involved in the recent Megaupload indictment, kindly go fuck yourself.
There is no perfect anything. Even your most cherished things in life: your smartphone, your spouse, your choice of entertainment… all of these things can and do have downsides. You just overlook them because the good outweighs the bad. Hopefully.
Set-top media devices are a shining example of a product that, depending on its feature set, can appeal to a wide variety of consumers. For some people, a DVD or Blu Ray player with built in Netflix and Hulu capabilities are more than enough to keep them happy forever. For others, an inexpensive Home Theater PC type device that will play their local files is more desirable. Still others still are chasing after the holy grail of these types of devices: a set-top box that will play both local files and all available web content.
Unfortunately no such device exists, nor do I think we’ll ever see one (at least not until a couple generations of network TV executives die off). While not blatantly doing so, the Boxee Box from D-Link appeared to be hinting at it being “the perfect device for all”. As a result, a handful of very vocal customers have been quite displeased with the product, and in its current form it most certainly is not perfect. You might be seeing some harsh comments in tech forums or in the reviews section on Amazon.
If you’re still on the fence though, allow me to attempt a different spin on it.
If you’ve gotten any weird messages, links or other nonsense from me this month, allow me to apologize.
This might help explain a few things on my end at least. Usually at work I’ll surf the web with the volume muted, but every once in a while I turn it on for something. And recently when I’d do so, I could hear some cold medicine ad playing or some other kind of mysterious audio. I’d shut my browser down and all other running programs but the audio would persist until it came to a natural conclusion. A few minutes later it would start up again, run its course, then stop. Only a reboot would make it stop completely, until I’d open up Google Chrome and then a short while later it would all start again.
Maybe it’s a fault in Chrome. I switched to it recently after Firefox became a slow, jerky mess and have enjoyed it, but maybe I need to switch to yet another browser. Anyone use something that’s not Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome that they’d recommend? Is there even anything else? Is Netscape still around?
I originally titled this blog post "How I Turned Around 360 Degrees on Twitter" but I'm always reminded of dialogue my good friend Charles Dance shouted at Anthony Quinn in Last Action Hero:
"180, you stupid, spaghetti-slurping cretin…180! If I did a 360, I'd go completely around and end up back where I started!"
So yeah, Twitter and the whole Twitter phenomenon was annoying the shit out of me. But as it turns out, I wasn't doing it right. I had Twitter set up on my phone to text me when anyone I was following updated. And holy fuck, did this ever get annoying fast, to the point where I was hating the whole concept of the uber-popular social network. And the Twitter homepage is pretty useless to (unless you love hitting F5 over and over again during your day).
But then I learned that there are third party companies out there making Twitter tolerable. I started using TweetDeck on both my PC and on my iPhone and it completely changes the way you interact with Twitter. Now I was doing it on my own terms, as you can group people together into custom lists and only read what you want to read, when you want to read it. Night and day difference actually, and it makes Twitter much more fun.
And that 140 character limit thing? I used to find it frustrating, but now I see it as a bit of a puzzle for you to solve. You type out what you want to say, see that it's over the limit, and then go back and start to reword, reorganize and abbreviate where ever possible. Sometimes I rather enjoy the challenge.
So here's my theory. Twitter is basically one big comedy club metroplex where it's always open mic night. When done right, you end up with a room full of snarky bastards all attempting to make you laugh. Who doesn't enjoy that? And when you're bored with the common folk you can wander over into another auditorium and get something from some maybe-celebrities or some such bullshit.
Here are some things you should be on the lookout for, and if they get out of control it might start irritating you:
1. Women are desperate for someone to cuddle with, and want the Twitter universe to know this. Volunteer to help them though and you'll instantly be branded as a creepy stalker perv and you'll get dropped and blocked. Stupid perv.
2. Women also love to announce the stages of their menstrual cycle. I'm not sure who's interested in this, but if you are, you could probably create some interesting flow charts.
3. There's a rule in the blogging world that says "No one cares about what you had for lunch". This doesn't seem to apply to Twitter. Sometimes people will just twitter "SANDWICH!!!!!" and then 50 people will reply "OMG I lurve sammitches!" and "Oooo bread is nummy!" and suddenly you realize you're in hell.
As long as you keep control over who you're following though, this kind of nonsense shouldn't spoil your Twitter experience.
And if you'd like to follow me on Twitter, I promise not to annoy you. I can't promise I won't talk about my period though.
I was thinking of doing a list like this myself, but someone beat me to it. How many of them were you already aware of?