Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Betrayal, or Becoming What I Hate

I give up all my ideals and morals to become seduced by the sweet siren of the Internet, after the jump.

I'm just old enough to be one of the transitional generation- the switch from CD's (and before that, cassette tapes- gasp!) to MP3's, DVD's to Netflix, and virtually all tangible media to some sort of digital form, transferred as information over the Internet. It's pretty dang cool.

And, of course, a bitch to police.

Producers work hard to add DRM restrictions to their media, as hackers work hard to get around them. Lawyers shut down Napster, as people everywhere plead the innocence of their downloading. Viacom pulls my beloved slash fanvideos from Youtube, as the fangirls go underground and trade them on Bongo. More music and videos are being uploaded, downloaded, traded and shared on the Web than ever before. Most of it is, of course, technically illegaly.

I have always been a firm believer in intellectual rights. If you make something, it belongs to you. Your work and energy went into its creation, and therefore you deserve just compensation for it. While friends were off talking about downloading songs, I was humming "Don't Download This Song" and proudly proclaiming that I bought all the media I consumed. "It's theft!" I chided. I was happy to support the musicians and filmmakers I loved, safely nestled in my clean conscience. While I generally gave leeway to reproductions like Youtube fanvideos that clearly stated the owners of the media (I have the "Fair Use" clause of copyright law nearly memorized), it was the downloading of something you hadn't bought that really got my goat.

And then I got tech-savvy.

It started off slowly- a legitimate download from a porn site membership was going too slow. One forum suggested Internet Download Manager, which was promptly installed and, sure enough, sped up the downloads quite remarkably. But unexpected was the new feature, a tiny clickable button appearing over every video and song player that I encountered, asking me if I'd like to download it with IDM. At first I ignored it, said "no" when the inevitable box would pop up, but then gave in out of curiosity. And it worked just fine enough. I tucked away that piece of information, downloaded a few things I really, truly loved, and let it be.

Fast-forward; now I'm working on another of my beloved Xtube videos, and I try again and again to import the stubborn video, which I legally bought and purchased from an online retailer, into my Windows Movie Maker. I consulted troubleshooting websites, and stumbled into the big wide world of DRM restrictions. There were tons of eager people sharing programs, discussing how to fight Windows, new updates, and all the time almost frantically proclaiming that this stuff was not meant to help illegal downloads, but rather to help people be able to, say, listen to their DRM-protected Itunes song on another music player, or transfer them to a CD so the could listen to them on stereo. Perhaps true, but it sure sounded like a "Thou doth protesth too much." sort of situation. But I did it, too- cracking the DRM code on my bought video and using it as I saw fit.

And then there was the whole question of file transfers. A fellow Crash Pad Series afficionado on Xtube vigorously agreed about the lack of queer porn and offered a trade of some of the missing links we had in our collection. And whaddya know, but I took it, with the help of . . . and felt little guilt, surprising myself.

And then, while searching for some movie or another, impossible to find, Google offered in my search results one listed "Bittorrent". Up until then, I'd heard once or twice of this mysterious service, and while in Japan, got a firsthand taste of the wonders it could bring. Locked miserably with the few DVD's we had brought with us and the impossibility of renting any (due to lack of a TV with a DVD player and the 3-times region-switching rule of our laptops), a fellow exchange student searched around online and, two or three hours later, there it miraculously was. I tentatively asked about it, and got a confusing answer, something about sharing and seeds and leeches. I gave up, only to be so desperate for the movie that I downloaded the program and gave it a whirl. Though it took forever (at this point, I hadn't mastered said concept of seeds and leeches), it actually worked. I'd successfully downloaded a movie from the Internet.

I should have felt more remorse, more guilt . . . but all I felt- and sadly continue to feel- is mostly joy. I'm starting to think all my posturing before was just the result of not knowing how to access all this media-stealing technology. The minute I found out, I became just as much a thieving fan as the rest of them. Can we say 'hypocrisy'?

I try to somehow justify it in my mind- no, no, I only download movies I can't get at my local Blockbuster, you know, the rare and hard-to-find! Of cousre, it's all bull . . . the type of movie downloaded hardly matters, and even if it did, I'd probably be more guilty, since the big companies (Warner Bros., etc.) have the money to spare on their popular movies, and the little companies with their indie films struggle. There's always the old argument that illegal downloading doesn't really matter; real fans will go and attend the concerts, buy the DVD's and the fan merchandise. And perhaps that's true for some. But I'm not sure it's true for me. I keep on working to support the kind of music, films, and porn that I like by purchasing it, but the temptresses of Internet downloading are calling to me in the night. I'm running out of space on my hard drive.

And I've become what I hate- the glib young gal shrugging off the accusations that it's stealing, or, perhaps worse, knowing that it is and just not caring. I try and tell myself that I'm not alone- everybody does it. But that doesn't make it right, and my heart knows that.

And yet off again I go, hunting for more free stuff. :(


Anonymous said...

DRM, not DMR. Digital Rights Management. Content control, limits copying, or at least attempts to.

Gwen said...

Right you are. I fixed it.