Cory Doctorow is up in arms about MPAA VP Fritz Attaway’s assertion that it is “against consumers’ interests to permit devices that make backup copies.”
Meanwhile, over at Educated Guesswork, they’re arguing that limiting consumers’ rights can be in their interest:
However, the general principle adduced by Mr. Attaway isn’t necessarily wrong: widespread copying of content potentiallly dramatically reduces the revenues received by the content provider. Any reduction in their potential revenus reduces their incentive to produce new content, which is bad for consumers as well. Now, it may well be that the ability to make backup copies and get cheap copies of the content that’s still available more than offsets the foregone value of content but that’s not something we know to be true by any means.
In other words, we don’t know that Mr. Attaway is right, but we don’t know he’s wrong, either, and what he said certainly isn’t crazy. Yes, it’s counterintuitive that you can improve your situation by restricting your choices but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
In other words, since we can envision a situation in which consumers might benefit from limiting their ability to backup data, then we know for certain that Attaway might be right. I call foul. On the contrary, if I can come up with one example that shows that backing up data is in a consumer’s interest, then I can say for certain that Attaway is wrong. And I can:
“The worst thing is, one little scratch is enough to make the movie skip forward a chapter,” says Martin, who estimates his collection at more than $3,000. “That’s become really annoying with a few of mine.”
DVDs are easily damaged. Being able to make a backup copy preserves my investment. Therefore, it’s not in my interest to prevent me from making backup copies. I realize Attaway is making an economic argument here, but the argument assumes that the only way to prevent piracy is by restricting backup devices. Imagine if the same logic was applied to automobiles: the only way to prevent car theft is to ban paint — after all, by painting stolen cars, thieves can cover their tracks!
Surely it’s not in the consumers’ interest to restrict their rights simply to prevent miscreants from breaking the law. Wouldn’t the MPAA be better served by devoting its resources to going after the true criminals, rather than restricting its customers’ rights?