Pirate Bay shut down-Is it a sign of progress against piracy’s “free for me” mantra?

vox_starbucks_netflixNotorious piracy emporium, Pirate Bay is down–for now–after a raid on its servers by Swedish authorities, but what does that mean for the future of piracy?

If you read Caitlin Dewey’s piece in today’s Washington Post “You can take down Pirate Bay, but you can’t kill the Internet it created,”  the ship has already sailed and creators may as well give up. Per Dewey:

…even if TPB doesn’t return, the politics and the conventions it advanced — that content should be free, and if you torrent, they can be! — will be very difficult to eradicate.

You may be able to shut down Pirate Bay, but good luck raiding the Internet that Pirate Bay created.

If she’s talking torrents, then yes, we’ll never eradicate them.  The laissez-faire attitude of lawmakers over the past decade has allowed online theft to flourish un-checked and spawned a well-entrenched piracy eco-system. However, despite the sentiment Ms. Dewey suggests–all is not lost. Whether The Pirate Bay continues to exist is beside the point.

Content consumers are willing to pay; they just aren’t willing to wait

Consumers of piracy seem driven by two, somewhat separate, catalysts.  On the one hand, people download content out of a desire to see, hear, or read it.  This is the part of piracy that most people can empathize with, particularly when it comes to a TV show that might not be available where they live.  Individuals who want to “stick it to the man” populate the other segment. They download stuff–not because they are necessarily fans–but because they feel entitled to free stuff.  “F#*! Hollywood…information should be free” is their battle cry.  They have neither appreciation nor concern for those they are stealing from–people who make their living by creating the films, music, and books we enjoy.

Now, obviously there’s not much we can do about the latter group of piracy aficionados, but with regard to the first group–the more important audience–we are doing something. Over the past few years there’s been an effort to develop new outlets to satisfy consumer entertainment demands.  Most people who want access are willing to pay a reasonable amount for it.  Netflix only costs $8.99 a month, or in modern terms, the cost is approximately = to 4 and a half cups of Starbucks (grande) coffee.  In other words, it’s not a budget buster.

Not a Netflix subscriber, well check out the handy new search portal Wheretowatch.com to find out where you can find favorite TV Show or movie.  When I searched for the BBC series “Broadchurch” I found I could watch it via Netflix, XBox, Amazon or Target.  If I want to watch the acclaimed indie film “Pariah” I can rent or buy via the same outlets in addition to Flixster and iTunes.

The key here is to make it easy to find, reasonably priced and available worldwide.  There’s still work to be done in achieving the latter, as territorial broadcast rights and release windows can still be a roadblock, but that is improving and I can see a future, that’s not far off, where day and date releases become the norm and release windows are synchronized across the globe.  As I noted in an earlier post on this blog:

…we are seeing an evolution as to how release dates are managed.  The notion of “territories” is quickly becoming obsolete–audiences are no longer regional, but global.

As for those who get off on grabbing free stuff (kinda like looters), that’s a mentality that will be difficult to change.  The good news is that most people have better things to do than download torrents or click through dozens of ads to watch a crappy stream– so, if creators and distributors can continue to make progress on streamlining access, progress against piracy will continue to be made.

Of course, it also helps when the legal system can gently divert people into taking the legit path. Takedowns of sites like Pirate Bay help this effort.  Operators of pirate torrent sites like The Pirate Bay or cyberlockers like Megaupload are not in the piracy business out of altruism–they’re in it to make money. Running a piracy website is profitable and those who do so deserve to be taken out of action. Other cogs in piracy’s profit machine–advertisers and payment processors–should also remain under scrutiny.

It would also help if our lawmakers worked on crafting legislation to help creators protect their livelihoods.  Revisiting the terms for DMCA “safe harbor” might be a good place to begin.

Piracy remains a “well-entrenched” threat to a wide-range of content creators, but unlike Ms. Dewey, I am not ready to throw my hands up and say, “I give up.”  Neither are most creators I know.  We are not blind to the reality of today’s online culture that espouses a “free for me” attitude, but our livelihoods depend speaking out, and fighting back, and we will continue to do so.

 

Piracy for profit-YouTube’s dirty secret

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YouTube and Russian “aggregator,” piracy partners in crime? When a bad guy steals your car stereo, to turn it into easy money, he often turn it over to a “fence” in exchange for quick cash.  Wikipedia explains this criminal workflow this way: A fence is an individual who knowingly buys stolen property for later resale, sometimes in […]

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Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) uses copyright law as censorship canard again

Censorship is a dirty word, laden with negative connotations and so it’s not surprising to see the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) dust if off (again) for use in its ongoing PR efforts to undermine rights of creators who use legal means to protect their works from online theft. The “censoring speech online” hyperbole was an effective battle cry during the SOPA debate, so why not use the same rhetoric to gin up opposition […]

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Searching for Movies & TV online just got a lot easier with launch of WheretoWatch.com

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  WheretoWatch.com offers convenient way to find movies and TV shows Some good news for those trying for figure out where to find their favorite movies or television shows online.  Today the MPAA announced the launch of wheretowatch.com, a new site that makes searching for movies and TV shows easy. Even better, the site isn’t limited […]

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Why does Google play a DMCA piracy shell game?

When Google removes a pirate link from search it redirects users to very same link on Chilling Effects Google received a lot of positive press recently with its announcement that notorious pirate sites would be demoted in its search results, but just take a look for a second at how disingenuous that claim is, and how […]

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