While washing the excess crap from the hamburgers I was making off of my hands, a thought popped in my head: since I already bought a movie, can I download a copy of it? In short, the answer seems to be no, based on a variety of “legal minds”. I say that with quotes because they like to refer to my “ownership” of a movie with quotes.
I’m a huge movie buff. I own hundreds upon hundreds of DVDs, and closets full of VHS. Seriously, people think I have a sickness. I probably do, so I can’t really knock that, but I legitimately bought these movies. I spent ridiculous amounts of money for these films, but apparently I don’t really own them. According to some, I only own a license. Funny, I don’t remember ever seeing that anywhere anytime I bought any movie, ever. Do you? Not one mention of my purchase of a license anywhere around the movie, or even on it.
Now, I’m not going to get into the whole legality and moral issues of downloading crap from the internet. In fact, I’m not even going to review legal precedents or anything of that nature. Why? For one, I don’t really feel like digging through months worth of information for this single blog post. Also, the courts and lawyers in general are stupid as hell when it comes to anything like this. It’s one of the reasons we’re in these predicaments. Still, the question remains: should I be able to download a copy of a movie I already own?
I’ve read through various arguments by lawyers who say this is illegal, that you don’t have the right to download a copy of a movie you bought. They almost always liken this to going into a store and stealing a copy of the movie off the shelf. They say that it’s the same thing. The problem is that it is not the same thing. Hell, it isn’t even in the same ballpark. The reason is because the product in the store is a physical copy that costs money to manufacture. Once you take a copy of it, it’s gone forever. It’s a physical object which can be taken away. The digital download costs nothing to make, warehouse or distribute. I can not take away one of these as I can with a physical object because the digital one is still there. I can download a movie 12 million times and no matter what, the original copy still remains. This isn’t the case with a physical copy, making these two no where close to being related.
But if I can download a copy of a movie I already own, once the physical copy finally falls apart than I won’t need to spend the money to buy another physical copy. That means that the manufacturer, distribution center, and store I would have bought the copy from will never get their cut of the imaginary money. But then again, why should I pay any of those people who have nothing to do with it to begin with? I bought the movie, which I apparently own a license to view. So why can’t I just download another copy of the movie to use my viewing license with? Why do I need to pay the store’s markup, the distribution center’s cost, and manufacturer’s fee if all I need is a digital copy to put on my own disc? I need nothing from those people, only the digital copy of a movie I already bought so I can put it on the $1 blank physical disc I bought for that purpose.
My DVR has immunity (just like my VCR)
If making a copy of a movie is illegal, why does my VCR and DVR exist? Well, apparently the reason for the VCR is because it has legitimate uses, just as bit torrent does (though they only see the negative). Still, what about my DVR? It only allows me to record content from my cable provider, and allows me to keep it until the end of time. This means I can record something and never have to buy a copy of it in a store. Since it’s digital, it will be around for a gazillion years, unlike a DVD which is much more susceptible to wear and tear.
My DVR can perform the same function as my computer. It stores a digital copy of a video. Now, that doesn’t mean that my computer should be illegal because it obviously has countless other uses other than this. The DVR only has one use, and that is to digitally store movies and TV shows which are broadcast across my cable line. I can save it and view the recording as many times as I want, whenever I want. This is much closer to downloading a digital copy of a movie than taking a physical copy from a store, because once again nothing is actually gone. A copy is being made, and that’s all. To add to the ridiculousness, my DVR can record anything I want, including movies and TV shows I’ve never seen (which is the primary reason for any consumer to have one). So somehow my DVR can legally do what my computer can not legally do.
This is where things get incredibly stupid. You are allowed to make backup copies of the movies you buy. However, you are not allowed to download a copy to use for the same purpose. This is literally the same thing. I’m making a digital copy of a film I already own, yet somehow it’s not legal for me to download a copy. I have to do the work myself.
Some lawyers have said that it’s a different version. It isn’t a different version if I’m downloading the same movie you dumbass. Unless the copy I’m pulling down is an extended, unrated, or directors cut (or something else where it isn’t the same frame for frame), than it is the same version. The medium it’s on is different. So they could argue that it’s not the same medium, which still doesn’t matter since I have my magical license to view.
On AVVO.com, one lawyer mentioned that just because you bought a DVD, it doesn’t give you a lifetime right to have a copy of a movie from any source. Clearly, he doesn’t know about the backup copies, otherwise he would know that I do have a lifetime right to it via my backup copies, which is another source. But then again, he also goes on to tell the original poster that their conduct was inexcusable and they should have known better. Why should they have known better? If they did, they wouldn’t have asked the question on the website you stupid ass.
He did bring up something else though, which is the infringement fees. Those are simply ridiculous. Somehow, a movie becomes worth several hundred times the cost to make it when you “illegally” obtain it. If that’s the case, the MPAA would do better to release one copy of a movie and then wait for it to be duplicated. They’d make more money that way. But that’s for another topic.
Another fun stretch they like to attach is that you don’t own the copyright. Well who the hell ever thought they did? I’ve never heard of anyone buying a DVD and thinking they own the copyright to the movie. That’s just dumb, but is another way that they like to jump around to other non-related topics in hopes to confuse and derail you from the original focus.
I believe that most consumers would believe they have the right to download a movie they already own. Why? Because no one expects otherwise. They paid for the movie, so why shouldn’t they? If they bought license to view the movie (which really is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in this argument), than they still have the right to download a copy of the movie they already own. But if you ask anyone on the street if they’ve ever heard of a license to view a movie, they’d have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.
I take care of the movies I own, so I don’t need to download copies of them. However, the fact that they take up a lot more room than they would if they were digitized and put on a couple hard drives is an obvious factor. The idea that I’m not allowed to download a copy of a movie I already own is completely stupid. This is something I think the majority (and I mean a massive chunk) of consumers would agree with.