Monday, January 23, 2012

The silver lining of the MegaUpload shutdown

It's been big news online lately that MegaUpload was shut down.  Along with it, many of the other annoying, wait-60-seconds-and-fill-in-this-captcha-or-upgrade-to-premium file sharing services have stopped offering public downloads.  A lot of people are understandably upset about this, since in the case of MegaUpload, they don't even have access to their own files anymore.

This blog post isn't about whether it was right for MegaUpload to be shut down.  There's plenty of debate going on about that, and it's something that I'm not personally interested in taking part in.  What we do know is that there were a substantial number of people using MegaUpload to distribute pirated media, and, let's be honest: a lot of people are pissed off because piracy just got a lot harder.  If you're one of those people, and you're angry and suddenly in search of ways to entertain yourself in the wake of the big shutdown, this post is for you.

You may have already realized that to some extent piracy creates buzz about media.  If people enjoy a movie or a game or an album or whatever, they talk about it, and the word gets out, even if the person doing the talking pirated it.  This is not a justification for piracy, mind you.  If someone wants to make content and then threaten to send you to jail for using it the wrong way, that's their prerogative under copyright law.  On the other hand, people and companies who do that don't deserve your business, and they don't deserve the buzz that you create by talking about their media.  This is particularly true given the fact that they're spending the money you give them to curtail your freedoms through draconian legislation and copyright treaties.

Ask yourself this, dear reader:  Do I need the RIAA to tell me what music I ought to like?  Do I need the MPAA to tell me what movies to like?  Do I need crappy, DRM-loving, morally-bankrupt game studios like EA to tell me what games to like?  I mean, seriously, have you seen big budget movies lately?  Most of them are complete lowest-common-denominator tripe.  As intelligent individuals, we can do better than that.

There's an awful lot of media out there released for free (or at least very cheaply in some cases), directly by the artists, musicians, cinematographers, and game studios that make them.  Some people like to argue that piracy doesn't harm anyone if you never would have paid anyway; I would contend that by pirating big budget, mass-market crap, you're hurting dedicated artists who are releasing their work for free, because the time you spend finding a pirated copy of whatever it is you want to download could have been spent discovering and talking about their works.

Even better, you could spend some of that idle time creating entertainment rather than just being entertained.  If you haven't worked on your own art, music, movies, or game projects, I would strongly encourage you to try it out.  Creating entertainment for other people to enjoy and getting their feedback on it can be immensely satisfying.  As an honest aside here, even a brief browse through open media libraries will make it obvious that movies are by far the weakest link in this chain, followed by games.  Music, being easy now for individuals or bands to produce on a large scale at home with a few hundred dollars worth of equipment, is by far the strongest.  If regular people like us are willing to spend the time helping to create games and movies, we can close the gap.  It'll take time, but if we can pull it off, it'll be worth it.

Media doesn't have to come from a feeding tube.  Go out, look around, and see the world.  There's a lot more out there than the big studios would like you to believe.  And while it's not yet equal in some ways (special effects, etc) to the big budget stuff, your interest and contributions can help it get there, and at the same time help render the big studios and their anti-consumer copyright laws irrelevant.  The big studios may, to some extent, be able to make it more difficult to pirate their content.  What they cannot do is force us to give them money -- we can always choose not to watch their stuff.

Here are some places to get started.


Getting involved:
If you have other sites to add to this list, drop me a line and I'll add them.  In the meantime, go discover something. :)

P.S.  If you agree with this, tell people about it.  Retweet, reblog, upvote, +1, whatever.  I can talk about this all day, but we need a real movement if this is going to change anything, and that means we need people to be aware.

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