It has been a rather copyrighty couple of weeks for me, with the Korea Copyright Forum, the Seoul Digital Forum and the International Publishers Association Congress in Seoul and the USTR keeping Korea on its IP watchlist (sorry but I am too tired and lazy to link to all of those).
And throughout those "fun" events, a common message coming out of them was the need for governments to enforce copyright protections. Sometimes the message was nuanced and interesting (eg, Ted Cohen); sometimes it was the usual heavy-handed "arrest-them-all" rant (eg, Sumner Redstone).
(And once it was "Piracy is good," when will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas spoke at the Seoul Digital Forum. Luckily, it was the day after Redstone's rant, or else the ancient billionaire might have had a stroke).
While I do agree that there needs to be some respect for copyrights, listening to all of that corporate self-righteousness got me thinking, what are the corporations' responsibilities for respecting copyrights?
Korea has shown pretty clearly that people are more than willing to spend money on music and other digital entertainment, as long as that entertainment is convenient, reliable and reasonably priced.
They spent money even when the competition is "free." Because free really is not free at all. You hope the music file you are downloading works, but it might not. Or it might have a virus or some other nasty bit of code in it. And figuring how to make the bittorrent or emule or whatever work is not much fun. The "free" options are a pain in the butt, and that is a real cost, just like money.
Despite all the whining about Korea's piracy problems, last year Koreans spent over $300 million on online and mobile music. Combined with $80 million in CD sales and you have a number pretty consistent with music sales for the past 10 years. (Sure the music labels complain that they are not getting their fare share, but the important point is that consumers are still spending as much money as ever).
Cory Doctorow, Radiohead, NIN and plenty of others have shown that making your stuff available on the Internet does not hurt their value. If anything, availability and accessibility enhances value.
My main point is, what responsibility do the various entertainment companies (big and small) around the world have to make sure their content is available? In Korea, it is pitiful how few movies and TV shows are available here, whether on DVD or online. Even programs that I know have been subtitled in Korean.
How can companies expect customers to respect their copyrights when they do not provide access to their copyrighted contents?
In the Internet age, people anywhere in the world have the ability to find, download and watch/listen to just about anything (as long as the Internet connection is good enough). The whole idea that you can divide up the world into pieces and control when each area gets access to something is so antiquated and backward.
Until the media companies start making a serious effort to make their contents available to me here in Korea (and to people in general around the world), I am not going to lose much sleep about them losing money to "piracy."