Internet piracy is a very hot topic these days. Recently, there have been articles like this one stating that even Japan has been cracking down more on piracy with its people. The following article shows Japan to be instating the following new policy.
Japan-based internet users who download copyright infringing files face up to two years in prison or fines of up to two million yen ($25,700; £15,900) after a change to the law.
In the United States we have had similar things like SOPA and PIPA. These are bills that if passed will severely limit the freedom of the Internet not just for the United States, but for the entire world. The issue of Internet Piracy aside, if these bills are passed they will severely undermine the very natural rights given to all human beings. There will be those who will decide what web pages will be acceptable for viewing and what web pages will be outlawed. The world will simply have no choice. It will be forced to comply because web sites will simply just stop working.
The truth of the matter is, even without these bills your rights can be violated. I have friends who have had authorities come to their house and confiscate their equipment without giving a reason. Internet Piracy can cost you a pretty penny if you are “found out” even in The States as it is. I would suggest to nobody to ever try Internet Piracy. It can be very risky business. You may be paying for your Internet service, but your ISP is legally required to provide all information about you to “an authority” if necessary.
So why is it that people are so concerned with Internet Piracy? Is it the “little people” who are simply just upset because they cannot make an honest living? Is it the “upright and moral” of the world who are claiming that “stealing” is wrong? Surely those who backed bills like SOPA are the “do-gooders” of the world trying to save the world from all illegal activities online like sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and child pornography.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to Wikipedia the major supporters included Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Entertainment Software Association, etc. If we even trace Internet Piracy lawsuits further back to when Napster (one of the first “mainstream” mediums for Internet Piracy) was around we see that a band named Metallica were the ones to sue Napster. Even though Napster was only providing a medium with which Internet Piracy could be used, Napster did lose the lawsuit.
In my opinion, declaring that Napster is the reason that Metallica’s music is being “stolen” is equivalent to saying that Apache (the HTTP server) is the reason that there is pornography on the Internet. To liken it to something less technical, it would be equivalent to deciding that cars are the reason that people die. Napster simply didn’t have enough money to contend, and eventually lost their case.
Herein lies another lesson. If you disagree with Anti-Piracy rules in any country and engage in activities to bend them on a large scale by providing ways to increase piracy, you are effectively going up against people with much more money than you have. If we have learned anything by living in society, it is that greater wealth means greater influence. Unless you believe in miracles, you are destined to lose. Be prepared for such.
No matter where you are in the world you will be subjected to this rule. As proof let me offer up as an example an organization called The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay is a medium for illegal downloading and they are very upfront about it as well. They are (or at least were) hosted in Sweden and Swedish laws seem to be much more lenient in when it comes to Internet Piracy. It is noteworthy that Sweden even has a political party called The Pirate Party.
Even though The Pirate Bay existed in Sweden and were protected by the Swedish government, they were still not untouchable. In May of 2006 The Pirate Bay servers were raided and confiscated. Major players of the organizations stood trial. They were later on found guilty of the crimes thrown on them by their accusers.
The four operators of the site were convicted by Stockholm district court on 17 April 2009 and sentenced to one year in jail each and a total of 30 million Swedish kronor (approximately US$3.5 million, €2.7 million) in fines and damages. The court found that the defendants were all guilty of accessory to crime against copyright law, strengthened by the commercial and organized nature of the activity.
However, today The Pirate Bay still stands. Their famous web site is still up and running and doing business as usual. The trial only served to create martyrs out of The Pirate Bay. Later on in the same year after their servers were confiscated, to support some hackers even responded by taking down the web site of the Swedish police. Internet Piracy is no closer to being ended than it was before the lawsuit began. The only difference is, people went to jail and people got paid.
The problem is as long as there is The Internet there will be Internet Piracy. If a law is passed outlawing all torrents (a popular medium for Internet Piracy), Internet Pirates will shift to use something else. If SOPA or PIPA become passed, Pirates will find another way to distribute pirated media. For every crafty man that exists to make a law or means to prevent it, three or four exist to create a way around it. This is the unavoidable truth.
What can be done then to stop Internet Piracy completely? Well, there is one thing. Most of the world will be opposed to it, though. The solution is this, don’t try to stop it. Make better quality products that people will want to spend money on to support.
Now, before you go off and start ranting about how I’m a crazy pirate and a socialist let me explain myself. I would like to state that I do not promote the “theft” of intellectual property. People work hard on things and they deserve credit for it. Every laborer also deserves his hire. But I think we can discover the solution to our problem using the concept we see in Open Source Software.
Open Source Software is software that is given out for free. Not only is it given out for free, but the coding (as in the instructions that make up the software) are given out also for free! The majority of people designing open source software hold real jobs. In fact, they are self motivated and most devote their spare time to making open source software! As in, they don’t even get paid for it and they still do it!
What is the result? Good quality software that can be shared by anybody. The code is out there for anybody to see. This means that the programmers have no choice but to make their software of good quality. After all, if there are bugs in it a hacker could discover them much easier having the coding behind it. Because of this operating systems like GNU/Linux that are based completely on open source software are some of the most secure operating systems around to date. And they are completely free!
Nobody should be restricted by the software they use. There are four freedoms that every user should have:
- the freedom to use the software for any purpose,
- the freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
- the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and
- the freedom to share the changes you make.
As in, you can use the software, modify it, give it out, but you can’t distribute it as your own and charge money for it. Usually what you see under these circumstances is that users will even credit the original authors of the software. It is a system that has been around since the beginning of “software.”
How does open source make money? Well, some companies offer the code for free but the support services on the software they offer as a paid service. So their employees still make money developing the software because the company receives profit. Some open source organizations simply just work on a donate system. That’s how Wikipedia runs and Wikipedia seems to always meet their yearly goal of millions of dollars in funding.
Taking open source software as an example, we can see that if a product is good enough people will want to pay for it. In fact, according to this article and this article, the on-line piracy of anime has actually increased anime DVD sales! As in, people like what they see so much that despite having it pirated and the freedom to watch it whenever, they still opt to purchase the DVDs. Is this not directly contrary to what would seem to be true?
In conclusion, I’m not a socialist and I’m not an idealist. I’m just simply saying that the only way to end Internet Piracy is to actually make a product that people will want to buy. If you do that, then people will buy it and you will get paid. On the other hand, if you make bad movies or music and people have the option using the Internet to pirate it instead of spending money on a DVD, BluRay, or CD then prepare to watch your profits skyrocket down.