I just saw a commercial for the DVD set of Once Upon a Time. (Please don’t judge my television choices. I’m a sucker for elaborate costumes and cheap CGI.) First thought, “Oh, I like that show.” Second thought, “Why would I pay for that? Isn’t it on Hulu somewhere?” This got me thinking back to my post on ownership a couple of months ago. What if the problem with piracy stems from the fact that we as consumers don’t own any of the files we download. I mean, why would anyone pay for something that could disappear at any moment? Something you can’t sell to your friend when you get tired of it?
Stay with me for a moment.
We know that people value things more when they pay something for them, even if it’s just a nominal amount. This is why we require a deposit on things.
So as the media companies come up with more ways to separate ourselves from our dollars, perhaps it will have the opposite effect. We see services like Wal-Mart’s Vudu that will take something you already own and put it on the cloud for a small fee. I repeat, it will charge you for something you already own in order to save you the trouble of carting around a DVD. iTunes only recently let us have access to movies we bought but deleted. (And that was nice of them. They did not have to do that according to the Terms of Service we all signed.) Up until a month or so ago, I would have had to pay more to re-download those movies I lost when my computer crashed. These files we purchase and store in the cloud could disappear at any moment, so why should we pay for them?
I’ll admit I did get pretty excited when the gossip mill decided Bruce Willis was going to sue iTunes for the right to leave his mp3 collection to his kids. Shame it was just a weird, made up story, because it’s a very valid question. We’re amassing these collections at great expense, and we have no first-sale rights.
I’m not advocating piracy. I want artists to get paid for their work (please go buy things from your favorite band’s website). I’m just saying that I’d rather ignore ads on Hulu and pay a fee to Netflix than accumulate files that could disappear whenever their real owners change their policy.
I guess what I’m arguing is that the concept of Digital Rights Management is actually creating the mentality that none of these things are real. And why should we pay real money for something that doesn’t exist? After all, the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
(Just as a side rant: Hatchette is raising prices on its ebooks for libraries. That’s right, they’re raising the price on these digital files that the libraries don’t actually get to own. Which means, really, more of your tax dollars being spent to lease things.)
Photo by Frank Douwes via flickr.com.
Emily Thompson is the host of EdReach’s show LiTTech, a show for the innovative librarian. LiTTech highlights the innovative news, gadgets, and resources for the literary educator. You can follow her on Twitter @librarianofdoom.