The present and future of post production business and technology

Why is fighting piracy a losing battle?

A couple of days ago I talked about why a “three strikes” law is such a bad idea. It’s also a bad idea because it’s pointless and bad for the content creators and/or owners’ businesses.

On the other hand, even the threat of a three strikes law in France (ultimately struck down by their highest court as against human rights) immediately created a business opportunity for encrypted Virtual Private Networks (VPN). Not only that, but the Pirate Bay folks are also setting up an inexpensive VPN service for anyone that wants it. These services disguise the IP address of the downloader, so even if copyright owners tried to get an IP address to sue (not that you can sue an IP address, as many have found out in non-US jurisdictions) everyone using the service has the same IP address, not correlateable to any individual location. 

If that should ever become “broken” as a workaround, something else will be found. In fact there’s a move afoot to update the bittorrent protocol to a new form that resists seeders being identified.

It’s a pointless exercise. Whatever horse there was has long bolted the stable and the only reasonable response from an intelligent business person is to find new business models. Andy Kessler, writing at, discusses The Inevitability of Internet Pirates: 

Hand out as many guilty verdicts as you like, but folks on the Internet will copy away–because, really, who can stop them? Google won’t do it, Internet providers like Comcast ( CMCSA –news - people ) and AT&T ( T - news - people ), who can block a lot of this stuff, can’t do it without Network Neutrality proponents squawking, “Interference!”

Even authoritarian regimes fail. (The Great Firewall of China is quite leaky.) Plus, it is so easy to create a Web service to download copyrighted material that, like that arcade game Whac-A-Mole, if you take one culprit down with your mallet another five pop up in the next few nanoseconds. Sad but true, there is not much anyone can do.

Blocking sites does not work because it’s relatively trivial to find a proxy server to log into the “blocked site”. DRM has been an abject failure inconveniencing those who actually paid for the product without doing anything to reduce “piracy”. 

Piracy is such a daft word for infringement – a civil or business problem, not a criminal one. With theft of property, the original owner is deprived of ownership because the thief has taken it. Not so with a digital copy where millions can be produced without anyone being deprived of anything (other than potential, not actual, income). The copyright industry likes to use the word “theft” or “stealing” but it’s disingenuous at best and an outright lie in all likelihood. (As are the outrageous guesses at “losses” that make the ridiculous assumption that every download is a lost sale at a premium price, none of which is supportable by fact.)

Not only is it inevitable, but it’s not in the best interests of the content industry. As I’ve noted before, those who do pirate music are also the music industry’s best customers. Apparently the pirating is a way of testing new music that otherwise would never have been heard, appreciated and ultimately purchased. 

Not only that but a new Harvard study shows clearly that it’s in societies best interests to have weak copyright. Remembering that the writers of the Constitution of the USA reluctantly granted “limited” exclusive copyright in return for encouraging creative work.

Copyright law was never meant to protect the music business in the first place—instead, it’s intended to foster creative production in the arts. It seems that goal is fostered by weak copyright and file sharing. 

The idiot copyright industry keeps saying that nothing would be created without ever stronger, and longer, copyright. This is another lie that bears no relationship with any fact or research, but that doesn’t stop the IRAA and MPAA making the claim. (Heck, they simply change their story to suit whatever action they’re currently taking to prop up outdated business models – every action that is, except updating their business models.)

The Harvard Study, analyzed by Michael Geist (the original is a pdf and harder to link to or quote) has found that file sharing has significantly increased cultural production. 

The paper takes on several longstanding myths about the economic effects of file sharing, noting that many downloaded songs do not represent a lost sale, some mashups may increase the market for the original work, and the entertainment industry can still steer consumer attention to particular artists (which results in more sales and downloads).

And this:

The authors’ point out that file sharing may not result in reduced incentives to create if the willingness to pay for “complements” increases.  They point to rising income from performances or author speaking tours as obvious examples of income that may be enhanced through file sharing. In particular, they focus on a study that concluded that demands for concerts increased due to file sharing and that concert prices have steadily risen during the file sharing era.  Moreover, the authors’ canvass the literature on the effects of file sharing on music sales, confirming that the “results are decidedly mixed.” 

It’s time the MPAA, RIAA and their international associates, who do NOT really represent artists, simply realized they were flogging a dead horse and the only chance they have for a future is to adapt. Ever more draconian laws that turn almost every citizen into a civil offender (or worse a criminal) is not only stupid, it’s not in the best interests of those who create the content. Something many musicians have realized already.

Any chance of at least one politician understanding the argument? I didn’t think so.