Tue, 01 Nov 2005
The absurdity of the copyright law
On Saturday evening we wanted to watch some movie. There was second part of Harry Potter on TV, starting at 8pm. We have decided that we would like to see it. However, it is difficult for us to watch anything at that time, because Iva usually goes to bed at least half an hour later. Recording the show on the VCR was not an option, because it is not possible to start watching the recorded show from the beginning when the recording is still in progress.
I have decided to download the movie over the Net, and we watched it on a computer instead on a TV. However, this brings a lot of questions, which nicely show how absurd the current copyright system is:
While in our country it is perfectly legal for us to download a copyrighted material for a personal use, it is not probably legal to offer this material for downloading. So the person we have downloaded the movie from was apparently doing something illegal. However, how it is different from him recording the show for us and sending us a VCR tape or a DVD? Or even how it is different from him recording the show to our own tape on our own VCR? And what about the TV aerial system we share with our neighbours? It also stores the TV signal for a while (even though it is few microseconds) and then rebroadcasts it using a VHF amplifier and a coaxial cable - is it illegal to store and redistribute the copyrighted material in this form?
And what harm (if any) has been done to the owners of this copyrighted material? We have seen this particular movie in a cinema, so we have already paid for it. And we would not have watched it on TV anyway, given the above time constraints.
A side note: try to think about it not in terms "this or that is legal or illegal", but use instead terms like "this or that is moral or not" (and why it is so), and "this harm has/has not been done". The law is only an imperfect codified form of what the society considers moral and what it considers immoral. And I think the present copyright system is very far away from my understanding of what is moral (promoting new artists and new work, not recording/distribution companies), especially when it is applied to an "information" available and distributable in the electronic form at virtually no cost.