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File sharing: a terrorist plot, and think of the Children!

I believe in the importance of copyright.  I also firmly believe in “fair use”: that is, if I pay for the right to use your content, I have the right to use it for my own personal use on any platform I choose.  Thus I am totally against abusive DRM systems that (for example) prevent me from watching a movie on my computer, and later watching it on my TV.  

My position puts me in a bit of a sticky position when it comes to “file sharing” and peer to peer (p2p) software.  If a person has a collection of music they have digitized from properly licensed CDs for their own personal playback on their computer or portable music device, that’s cool.  If they then install some sort of file sharing program to make their music collection available for anyone to download…that’s not cool. 

But the music and video/movie industry is being incredibly stupid.  They don’t just want to stop folks from sharing files, they want to force people who buy a CD to pay again when they want to listen to that same music on their computer, and again to listen to that same music on their iPod, and again….  They also want to have legislation that would allow them to illegally search and seize your home/computer to “prove” you are violating their laws.  They want people to believe that file sharing is so important, such a huge crime, that wire taps, keyboard/data logging, and prison terms are the norm.

They spend tens of millions of dollars a year, lining the pockets of government officials all over the world.  And money talks: witness the recent report from the U.S. patent office / Commerce and Intellectual Property Office that tells us that file sharing turns children into criminals and provides classified information to terrorists

If you want to read the entire 80 page government report, go here (pdf file).  Technologically, installing a peer to peer file sharing program (as the report indicates) has risks for home users.  It is often not well understood by users that, when they download something using a p2p program, they usually immediately “open up” that file for download from *their* computer as well.  In a corporate / government environment, use of peer to peer file sharing programs should be controlled if not outright forbidden.  There is no place for uncontrolled Internet based peer to peer file sharing in the office (although arguably bittorrent is used for some important/necessary purposes, there are “safe” bittorrent clients available).  That much is true, and where I work, the traffic from common file share programs like Kazaa is blocked on the network.  

But some of the conclusions and/or emphasis within the document is outright ludicrous.   Don’t share files: think of the children!  Don’t share files: you are supporting terrorism if you do!!  Man, those RIAA / MPAA goons must have really put on a niiice party for Under Secretary Jon W. Dudas….

4 comments to File sharing: a terrorist plot, and think of the Children!

  • Leaha

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I do especially like the part about being labels a terrorist. You’d think that argument would have been beaten to death already but never underestimate the old boys club’s lack of imagination. Fear mongering doesn’t work as well as it used to. This internet thing will be not only be the down fall of the American music industry (why is it only the Americans are having a righteous fit about this? What about the EU?), it will be the downfall of the damn government and world law and order too! Phhha. Whatever.

  • Interestingly, despite all the hand wringing by the music industry pundits about how digital music downloads will bankrupt them, their revenues and profit margins are actually going up. I know myself that, when offered the ability to buy individual songs of my choice for a reasonable (I.E.: less than $1 per song) price, I buy more rather than less. I use the available search engines to find individual songs that I want to hear, and keep finding more. I just buy less crap by one particular artist in order to get individual songs I like.

    I recall reading a summary of research showing that unauthorized duplication of music/video (E.G.: “sharing”) results in increased revenue instead of loss. The basic premise is that the vast majority of people who “illegally” copy are not actually lost revenue: they wouldn’t have paid for the content to begin with. But a healthy percentage of those who “steal” content ultimately go and buy more related content legitimately, if it’s available. Their interest in a particular musician or musical genre is piqued by something they download, and they go looking for a more complete set/higher quality recording. If they can find it in a format they want to use, they’ll generally pay for it.

    The huge CD / DVD duplication companies do real damage to the copyright holders, and I don’t hesitate for a moment saying they should be hammered to the fullest extent of the law. But there is little evidence to support the premise that individuals do. It’s fair and reasonable for folks to be aware of how P2P software works, and to be conscious of the possible risks of using it.

    But any time someone starts shouting “Think of the Children!” or “It supports the terrorists!”, I become…what is several orders of magnitude more than simply “skeptical”? 🙂

  • oblivion

    Also what about This Morn ‘Omina, Moonitor, Malada Fronta and others. Ever heard of those groups? Probably not and neither has the companies that would stope me acquiring the music form these groups the only way I can. I cannot by This Morn ‘Omina in North American sores, I have looked. So what else can I do? This panic doesn’t address this either.

  • The music industry has based it’s profit on artificial scarcity via the manipulation of supply … in other words by cornering the market and controlling market share.

    This is always a way to get very high profit margins because it requires very little cost once the choke hold is achieved, but is always, long term, not sustainable. What is sustainable, is growing the over all market, and adding value or services.

    There is a lot of music out there like you mention that under the old system would never get marketed because it would just not offer enough return… a digital advertising and distribution model allows more people to produce, and more people to buy music, thus actually creating a bigger market for music overall. Just like nofrills airlines like westjet saw huge growth with people that never flew much before, digital music and the internet allows the creation of entirely new music producers and consumers.

    And I think most people are like myself, lazy. Nor am I real music phreak. I am not going to comb every little club, forgotten corner of the web, or studio storage room looking for that next favourite song. I want to go to a site where someone has put that together for me. Where there is actually some samples and where there is something written about the music. And where I know I won’t be getting viruses, spyware and keyloggers. And performers are not going to want to set up their own site, their own artwork, and their own download servers. There is plenty of money to be made still in compiling collections, finding performers, arranging the music for the convenience of the shopper, providing promotional and technical assistance to the performers and of course actually looking to the integrity of the online transaction.

    These are all things legitimate consumers and performers are willing to pay for. However they also require work, and some cost. Meaning lower profit margins for the recording industry. However to protect that margin they are their own worst enemy… they have put viruses and malware on peoples computers ( Sony! ) they have put irritating restrictions and limitations on the product that serve no purpose save to tick off legitimate consumers, and they have locked out small market performers that would be more than happy to sell their stuff online for a lower rate just to get out there.

    Much like prohibition in the 20’s created a crime culture that survived into the ’70s by giving the Mafia a huge boost, the recording industries activities today risk creating a culture of intellectual property theft that will last as long as the industry itself has been around, and with very damaging consequences fro everyone, not just a few overpaid execs.

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