Who benefits from a file-sharing crackdown?

August 26, 2009

jollyroger-300x234- Andrew Robinson is the leader of the Pirate Party UK. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Draconian penalties for file sharing were threatened by the government on Tuesday. In addition to the previously announced 50,000 pound maximum penalty for “IP offences” we are now told that whole families are to be disconnected from the net if just one member is accused of sharing files.

Leaving aside the obvious injustice of this proposal and the fact that our court service which handled 2.1 million cases last year is not going to be able to handle the 4.9 million extra cases that the government’s stated target of a 70 percent reduction in Britain’s 7 million file sharers would would necessitate, I think we should also consider who stands to benefit from this proposed crackdown.

There are two major ways that the general public currently access copyrighted content without paying the rights holders. One is through file sharing, where information is freely shared for no financial gain, and the public participate in what is effectively a giant library where even the rarest snipped of music or least appreciated TV show is altruistically preserved for posterity.

The other is through the purchase of counterfeit CDs and DVDs, where organised criminals exploit the work of others for financial gain, and tend to concentrate their efforts on solely on the latest blockbuster hits.

Inexplicably, the government are prepared to trample over all semblance of natural justice in order to stamp out the former, while completely ignoring the latter. The inevitable consequence of this is that people will switch from file sharing to buying counterfeit products, which is a seemingly trivial offence with no history of incurring terrifying penalties.

These measures will not help the preservation of our culture, or win votes for the Labour party, or boost the media industry’s profits. The actual beneficiaries of the file sharing crackdown will be inevitably be the organised criminal gangs producing counterfeit goods.

The Pirate Party UK proposes legalising file sharing when it is done without making profit, a policy that would allow enforcement measures to be focused on real criminals, the very gangs of organised counterfeiters who must currently be rubbing their hands in glee at Lord  Mandelson’s file sharing crackdown.

Related Blog: Cutting off the music file-sharers

Comments

Over four years ago I wrote several pieces regarding the issue of filesharing. At the time, the RIAA and MPAA were only just beginning to show their teeth in what has now evolved into a series of deliberate and concerted international efforts on several fronts to restrict and effectively shut down the free flow of digital information on the Internet.

You can read the article that ties those pieces together – a little prophetic with hindsight – at the address below:

Filesharing – The New Economy of Community
http://bit.ly/zFS0D

The time for Internet users and workers at Internet Service Providers to unite and fight back against regressive and repressive legislation has arrived.

 

I don’t think you can compare copyright theft, for the profit of the thief, with copyright theft as a loss of profit for the copyrighter.

If someone provides a service or product and you take it without paying them for their time, it is theft. You are getting something for nothing. You are reducing the maker’s profit margin.

If you do so to profit yourself, the first action is the same; someone provides a service or product and you take it without paying them for their time, it is theft. You are getting something for nothing. You are reducing the maker’s profit margin. Then you are then making a profit on top.

Both result in the maker losing money directly by your actions – whether you make money from the piracy or not.

I believe you can either talk about loss of earnings or you can talk about profiting from theft, but you cannot justify the first by saying it’s not as bad as the second. Otherwise you are saying that if someone steals your mobile phone, but keeps it for themselves rather than selling it, it’s ok and the law should protect them.

David

 

Over four years ago I wrote several pieces regarding the issue of filesharing. At the time, the RIAA and MPAA were only just beginning to show their teeth in what has now evolved into a series of deliberate and concerted efforts on several fronts to restrict and effectively shut down the free flow of digital information on the Internet.

You can read the article that ties those pieces together – a little prophetic with hindsight – at the address below:

Filesharing – The New Economy of Community
http://bit.ly/zFS0D

The time for Internet users and workers at Internet Service Providers to unite and fight back against regressive and repressive legislation has arrived.

 

However, David, If someone buys a counterfeit DVD, they intended to spend money on the product. The online downloader may not pay for the product even if it was available.

Furthermore, the profits of counterfeit DVDs/CDs usually go to organised crime, schoolkids selling things in the playground notwithstanding.

Posted by John | Report as abusive
 

I thought when the X-Men movie Wolverine got leaked a month before it’s release and still did great in theaters this arguement was put to rest. The ability to download material does very little to impact the profit of the copyright holder.

 

The internet should be a place where free information is publicly accessable to all.

The only issue is piracy. The internet consists of information. And some people have a bit of difficulty seeing that there is a difference between ‘free information’ and ‘private information’.

A person who takes information which they are not entitled to have, has no right to complain when they are punished for it.

In fact, a file sharing crackdown would only affect illegal file sharing. Not the sharing of free public information such as freeware.

Those who believe the crackdown is draconian, do so because they know it will block illegal file sharing of privately owned information. Which is exactly what they want to be able to do.

They liked the idea that for years they were able to steal and get away with it. In fact, they had it good for so long, they now believe it is their right to be able to do so.

But now the technology and law is finally catching up, and the free ride is over. God help them, they will actually need to fork out some cash the next time they want a song.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

Simple answer to all of this – STOP ripping us off with ludicrously high prices of cd and dvd products. Numerous artistes tell me time & again they don’t see a fraction of the silly prices charged for these products. I work alongside many performers: they cannot all be wrong. So as well as kicking back against yet more repressive government intervention we should finally kick back against the real problem – too much money being made by the (distribution) companies…..

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive
 

This smells of the “50% tax” political move, which will have either very little desired effect or none at all while alienating a large proportion of the electorate….. carry on digging Gordon & Alistair ….your days are numbered

Posted by OptimisticAl | Report as abusive
 

I think the sharing of information/content via file sharing protocols is merely the evolution of the cassette era of the 70′s and 80′s.
The advance technology means that sharing and distributing content, copywrited or otherwise is quicker and more wide spread than ever before.
Accepting the change in dynamics for this industry maybe a fresh approach should be taken? More bands appear to be less worried about revenue from Album sales and are reverting back to the early days of the music industry where artists make thier money from actually playing thier songs in front of live audiences. As for the consumer, this should beat sitting at home in front of the TV for sure!
Surley a balance can be struck between the availbility and sharing of data/content with the need to protect copyright?

Then again asking for balance and common sense these days seems to be just a little bit too much to ask for as the idea has been copyrighted by somebody else and they are reluctant to share it without some for of control and profit!

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive
 

I have to agree with Larry. Musicians are receiving a tiny fraction of the sales of their CD’s. As far as i can see, most real fans like to have the ‘real’ CD anyway rather than ripped of mp3s.

Anyway, with the artists receiving such a small share of the sales, by buying the real CDs you are actually helping to make the likes of Sony, EMI and dare i say it Simon Cowell richer. Now do Sony or Simon Cowell need more money? I think not.

To have one more rant – i heard Coldplay recently saying ‘we just love to make music, if people like it then that’s just a bonus’.Ehh, well why cry about all the money if you’re just in it for the love and not record sales???

Posted by iain | Report as abusive
 

The issue of how much money Sony makes from CD sales is not the issue here.

Theft is theft, regardless of who you choose to steal from.

If you follow the logic that you can steal from the rich, don’t be surprised when someone else uses that same logic to steal from you. All thieves justify their actions.

Posted by haha | Report as abusive
 

I download. Some may see that as theft, but the things I download – TV series, the occasional song I heard on the radio – I would never buy. The corporation owning the item have not lost one penny. I don’t sell or use the items for profit, in fact usually I just delete it after i’ve watched/listened. For some music tracks i’ve listened to, I’ve even gone out and bought the album on CD as i’ve liked it so much,purely on the strength of my “try before I buy” download. I would have never gone into the shop and bought it otherwise.

The thing is, my downloading habits are very common. The average downloader doesn’t trawl the net for the latest blockbuster recorded on handy cam, then burn it to DVD and sell it down the market. It’s simply another channel of access.

My point is, copyright law is now woefully outdated. We have large corporations desperate to keep their old pre-internet business models and huge margin, when in fact people now have choice. Hopefully the debut of services such as spotify etc, where you can just listen for free or download and buy tracks for 25p or so – a fair rate – will force the corporations to be sensible in their pricing.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive
 

Since i got broadband, thats the first place i look for something. Afterall, gotta get your money’s worth.

I couldn’t care less about the ri/mpaa, seling a cd/dvd for 20/40 bucks. They are just greedy and not smart enough to move with the changes. Too stupid to take advantage of what technology has to offer for their business, and too fat to consider changing their model to sell for less to a broader audience. They could further the arts, make it affordable to all, and reap the benefits. Everyone knows a rolling stone gathers no moss… but instead, they neglect and reject change, whine and complain, and fight to maintain their greedy ways. It’s a shame really..

99c for a song is way too steep. Prices should be 2 bucks for a cd, and 5 for a dvd, especially with how easy it is to reproduce the stuff. at that price there might not be any price cuts, but still, future buyers would jump at that price to get their collection.

But of course they wont change to prices like that, and thats why the users are in essence holding the ri/mpaa hostage with the sharing. the bottom line to the said organizations is basically “change or die: you’ve got a chance, but don’t let greed get the best of ya, or else!”

Posted by John Jacob | Report as abusive
 

A few facts………

p2p downloaders on average spend more on music than those who don’t
http://www.bi.no/Content/Article____7486 6.aspx

which lends weight the idea that p2p is a promotional chanel as much as a revenue loser.

RIAA and MPAA have lost the plot – the music market has changed and if they had worked on maximising revenue, instead of trying to hold back the sea and sueing their customers in a particularly nastly way, then they would be doing their job instead of failing as they are now.

It’s a market, and they are competing with “free”, all they need to do is offer value for money – a sensible licencing agreemnent with internet radio stations, downloads that people want at a price they will pay, make Pirate Bay available at a reasonable subscription………

The possibilities are endless.

They wont stop the hardcore – nothing will, and spending big chunks of money on trying is wasting the money they take from the rest of us.

The rest of us (the majority in my opinion) who are happy to spend a little for the chance to listen to the music we want to hear and know that its fair to pay will be a source of income.

I have absolutely no sympathy for the RIAA and MPAA – they dug their own hole and now they are stuck in it.

Posted by Peter Lovatt | Report as abusive
 

“Faceless corporations are greedy parasites.”

Said the download pirate who steals music, because he doesn’t want to pay 99c for it. And does so in the safety of cyberspace.

“I buy the music I like anyway, so it isn’t theft”.

Right. So you already have a quality download on your computer. And you are going to buy a legitimate version as well. Just because you are a nice fella? Nobody believes that.

“It’s the corporation’s fault. They need to get with the times/market/technology/ect.”

Somehow, I get the feeling that even if songs were 5c each, most pirates would still be stealing them. Call it a hunch.

“If the corporations change their attitude, then they will not need to waste time on this issue”

You know what the issue is? The majority of people play by the rules. And the pirates are the parasites who steal for free, and lump the cost on everyone else.

The reality is that pirates steal because it benefits them, and because they think they can get away with it. They will always swear blind that they are justified in stealing. And scream like a stuck pig when they get caught. Just like every other thief, in the history of theft on this planet.

The joke is not that the corporations are out of touch. The true joke is that while technology has changed, the mindset of the thief has not.

And once piracy can easily be detected and punished, the true hilarity will begin. Honestly, how many of you pirates out there would still do it, if you knew they will catch you?

And honestly. Your only excuse for theft is “It costs too much to buy”? That doesn’t even work for 12 year olds stealing candy bars. Good luck convincing a judge.

Posted by Frank Discussion | Report as abusive
 

Frank Discussion, it’s sad to see you railing against the future. You can believe what you like, and ignore the facts, that’s down to you.

me? I say file sharing isn’t theft – its duplication. nothing has been taken – it’s still there. noone has lost out – because the filesharer would never have bothered to pay in the first play legitimately. taping off the radio, borrowing a mates CD/DVD, downloading…it will never stop. Am are filresharers scared of the big bad music+film industries lashing out? no..because they cannot stop it.

evolve, or die. If these industries dont change they will become extinct.

Posted by Kieran | Report as abusive
 

I agree with: Frank Discussion

Additionally, the argument here should to persuade the corporations to authorise downloading as a try before you buy method.

It has to be the owner’s decision, you just have to help them see that this is the best way forward. If you think songs should be free, write to one of the biggest selling artists in the world at the momen, write to Coldplay: http://www.coldplay.com/oraclesubmit.php

You never know what change you can affect until you try.

Posted by David | Report as abusive
 

I guess general public gets the benefits, as they can just download the movies, musics etc etc and enjoy the thing. Do it is for free, but money is not only the matter.

 
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