has begun and will continue Friday and Monday.
The inevitable failing of the blog is the semi-coherent railing against a topic of little interest to the populace at large. These posts consist of ill informed ranting composed by an author with, at best, a surface understanding of the subject’s deep intricacies. With unintentional comedy the highest expectation, the reader consumes it reluctantly if at all. Constituting a shrill death knell, the blog’s readership typically dips to next to nothing That or the ranting strikes a chord with disenfranchised loonies.
With that gamble in mind I look to bolster falling readership numbers with a three part series of my own area of in-expertise: Intellectual Property. Specifically, I look to restrict my howling mad ravings to piracy and discuss it in three parts. For the first part, I will talk about the uncontroversial assertion that file sharing is a real thing that business cannot sue away. Next I will suggest that piracy itself is not morally reprehensible, something I imagine people will roundly disagree with. Finally I point out that there are a plethora of ways to utilize piracy to earn a living. Shocking, I know!
Quick ground rules: Piracy is not stealing. Stealing deprives someone of a physical good, piracy is simply making a copy of something. If you steal a CD, I cannot buy it. If I make a copy of a CD, you still may purchase it. Secondly, not all file sharing is piracy. There are numerous non-infringing uses for file sharing such as Linux install distribution, freely released content, software patches, and distribution of public domain content. To name but a few.
The argument: Piracy is a reality that will not go away. The support: That file sharing is not decreasing and that no DRM has ever proven effective. If you cannot stop people from taking your content, copying it and making it available to a wide audience, then you cannot stop piracy. Following this, I will introduce that business models must change, which will be fleshed out in the third installment.
So, is file sharing in general and piracy in specific decreasing? No. Not really. It’s a story of increasing futility. Napster shut down? eDonkey, Kazaa, Limewire and a hundred others spring up. Shutdown Grokster? Pirate Bay and the rise of BitTorrent. Pirate Bay sort of hamstrung? Just about a million new sites pop up. Thus far, it’s proven extremely difficult to make any head way in curbing piracy. Lawsuits have proven ineffective, as had attacking the distribution enablers. It’s almost as if the landscape has changed and no amount of wishing will return it to the way it was. The fact of the matter is that distributed file sharing is relatively simple software to write and has a huge audience. This means that there is virtually no limit of people who will write new programs to replace the ones that are taken down. It’s like a Sisyphean Ordeal where the hill just keeps getting higher. The fact that the boulder rolls down to the bottom every night is almost pointless behind the fact that it can no longer be rolled to the top.
Well, then maybe you can stop piracy before it goes out the door, by defeating your customers with DRM. Whoops, no you can’t. In fact, DRM usually just worsens the experience for the legitimate customer. Sometimes with big consequences. The fact is, every DRM can be cracked (sometimes with laughable ease). Couple this with the ease of finding those cracks (simple Google search will do) and you begin to see the enormity of the problem. The fundamentals of this situation lie in the fact that DRM is created by humans. If it helps, think of home security. If you lock your doors and windows, do you think that will keep someone out? What if you put bars and a security alarm in? Can you think of no way around those defences? DRM is a security riddle asked by twelve guys who work for Sony to the entire world population. Someone is gonna find the answer.
You can’t keep people from getting unfettered access to your content. You also can’t stop them from distributing it to the rest of the world. The question you should be asking yourself is, do you want to? The main complaint from the industry and artists that cannot adapt is that, “You cannot compete with free”. Why can’t you? DVD sales compete with TV and have for a long time, yet TV is free. How do they do this? Does no one purchase seasons of Family Guy because they can watch it for free on network television? The foundation of this competition is the difference between cost and value. Just because something has a cost, does not mean it has a value. If you live in the desert, a $150 Northface jacket is valueless to you, as is a Speedo to an Inuit. If you can offer something that is more valuable than the free item, people will buy it. A season of Family Guy affords you the control over when to watch it, plus it collects all of the episodes into one season. Ownership in and of itself is a valued commodity. Business models must adapt to the change and studies show that they can profit from piracy.