Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Are All Pirates Treated Equally?

The piracy battles rage on with on one hand the content owners resolute to take on the fight through every and any means and on the other the pirates who play by different rules and vales. Some may think it’s a battle of morals between right and wrong but the reality is that both sides do not agree even on the definitions and therefore are fighting over principles that they will never agree on. Media companies are struggling to persuade consumers to pay for video, music or news online and many consumers believe content on the Web is free.

“The history of file-sharing is that every time the industry takes action, by the time it tackles a bigger source of the problem, the problem has moved elsewhere,” said Mark Mulligan, analyst at Forrester Research.

A recent study has found that 8 %of consumers have admittedly watched an illegally downloaded video file. The study, conducted by research firm Futuresource Consulting, surveyed consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany. The survey also found that 90 percent of those who watched video content online had never paid to watch news or recently-missed TV shows. Just over half had never paid to watch new movies. But most said they would or might be willing to pay in future.

Last week Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found guilty and received what many see as an obscene fine totally out of proportion to the crime. Was she guilty – Yes. Should she be fined – Yes. However the fine itself has just made life more difficult for all as its hardened one side and introduced an element of bad press for the winners. Where The Pirate Bay guilty – as Napster, Kasaa and others before. The the RIAA (Recording Industry Assn. of America) has failed to cut into the volume of copyrighted material on peer-to-peer networks, what has started to shift the balance has been broader licensing. Often people still turned to piracy because they couldn’t find what they were seeking on authorized channels.

In last week’s Digital Britain white paper the government set out its ambition to reduce online piracy by 70 per cent. Its plans included requiring internet service providers to write warning letters to customers spotted illegally downloading music, TV shows and movies, while persistent “offenders” could be pursued in the courts.

If, after a year, fewer than 70% of those receiving warnings ceased downloading, Ofcom could impose measures such as barring specific sites, filtering illegally acquired content or limiting the speed and capacity of broadband connections.

So on one hand we have everyone trying to control. Restrict and grapple with copyright infringement but is this message a consistent one?

Google scanned significant copyright material in the guise of fair use. The case was never proven because it was railroaded to produce a settlement that only lawyers can comprehend. It is also viewed by many as rewarding those who infringed. What message does that send out to the market?

What we face is a law and governance that flies with the wind or some may say the dollar. What is right to prosecute those who as individuals can make little impact on the numbers, prosecute the carriers who give them a portal, prosecute the services that are happy to work within DMCA and a safe harbour or those who scan first, claim it is for humanity and then say they are going to be a bookseller and sell the stuff they effectively took?

Crazy world and clearly one where some are more equal than others.

1 comment:

Mau said...

Hi Martyn,

I live in Mexico City, totally another world if you compare to the US.

Here is really difficult (even impossible) to find certain Books or CD's. For years I have spent thousand of US dollars to buy stuff from amazon.com and have them delivered at my end.

As you can guess, the price I've paid is huge due to DHL, UPS, etc. companies.

I know it is not fair for the author the existence of piracy on the web, but sometimes it has saved my day.

Sadly, this world is not fair either and I don't think they can ever stop this file-sharing phenomena. Only shutting down the internet would do, and I hope I don't live to see that happen.

Your blog rocks, keep it up!