Pirates of the Interwebs

I assume everyone has heard of the actions taken on the internet today as a reaction against the SOPA and PIPA acts, which is basically an attempt to censor the internet. You can read all about it all over the net, and probably already have, so I’m not going to dive into that.

I rather wanted to say a word or two about so called piracy, or illegal copying of copyrighted material over the internet.

Firstly, the people behind online piracy are usually referred to as “The Scene”. Censoring the internet will not help even a bit with their activities. Scene releases are not meant for the public at all, but are leaked through multiple online sites like public and private torrent sites to the general public. Several attempts have been made to take down these websites over the last decade or so. They never truly succeed. The people behind these sites are often idealists and anti-capitalists that believe in free access to work of art and entertainment.

This idealistic approach to intellectual property is not limited to multimedia. For a long time now, open source software has been available for free for anyone to download. I sit at a computer where not a single program – or the operating system itself – is paid for. It’s all free and acquired legally. I am a Linux user. If you’re not a Linux user, you may be using Firefox still. Firefox is open source, and probably the current most popular web browser around. The open source community has proven that at least for software, big corporations and capital is not needed. It’s the exact opposite philosophy of Apple, where you almost have to pay for each key you press.

Secondly, ridiculously overpaid film actors and a record industry that actively exploit their artists are far from the good guys in this game. Also, the film and record industry are actively working against their customers with DRM and all sorts of restrictions and limitations on the products they sell us. Neither are we generally allowed to acquire these products in the convenient formats that modern technology have given us.

Take media centre computers for instance. It can be a cheap or old computer installed with a free application like XBMC, and connected to the TV. I have copied all my DVDs onto a box like that, and I can browse all my films and TV series with a remote control and watch them without having to flip through shelves of DVDs and put them individually into a special player. It is modern technology. At least 10 years old modern technology. Where are the media industry?

But am I allowed to do this? Under my country’s laws I am, but they don’t like the fact that I can copy my DVDs onto a computer. Why? Because I may share them with others. Fine, I can see that problem, but since when, after the internet became popular, could not anyone get a hold of a copy of any film, TV-series or music track anyway? Why fight a battle you cannot possibly win? The music industry is coming around. iTunes no longer have DRM protected tracks, and excellent music streaming services like Spotify have made it possible for people like me to enjoy my music in the way I like it. No CDs, no disc man, no CD player. Just files on all my computers and devices that I can play when I want to, and for a reasonable monthly fee.

This is the future – folks of the entertainment industry! Get with it, or go under. Stop harassing and criminalizing your customer base. It makes you appear greedy and ruthless … and hated. Piracy will not die down until you meet your customers on the half way. Media is also art. Art is about expression and beauty, and not all about money and profit. Art is for humanity to enjoy and share. Copyright should have a much lower time limit really, the chance for profit is when something is new. After a while, the work belongs to all of us.

The only part of the industry I have some sympathy for are the enthusiastic producers, writers and actors behind many of my favourite Sci-Fi TV-series like Babylon 5, Firefly, Farscape and Doctor Who. They don’t make much money, they work very hard and they produce amazing things on low budgets. Unfortunately the shows often get cancelled because they are not profitable enough. I gladly buy the box sets even if I already have seen the episodes just to make this sort of production profitable enough that they continue to make such series.

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