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Jack Riley: This trial has only made torrent sites much stronger

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"It used to be only movies," Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde told his followers on Twitter yesterday, as news broke of the early outcome of yesterday's trial. "Now even verdicts are out before the official release." To file-sharers worldwide, the irony will not go unappreciated.

Waves from Pirate Bay's tussle with copyright holders will be appearing on the shores of many file-sharing sites across the world in the coming days, as an under-investigated community tries to assess the implications of yesterday's guilty verdict on what has been, until now, a largely unregulated area of the internet. Pirate Bay's publicly accessible database of "torrent files", the blueprints for quick and easy downloading of TV shows, films, albums and singles, is used to share legal and illegal files by more than 3.5 million registered users. By November of last year it had recorded more than 25 million "peers" – anyone who has participated in the dissipation of files by torrent. Since then, there has been an explosion in publicity which has seen widespread mainstream media coverage as well as almost blanket coverage in the blogosphere and on Twitter. In geek parlance, in trying to strike Pirate Bay down, the prosecutors may have succeeded in making the website stronger than they ever imagined.

The consensus among the smarter media commentators is that the success for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which is reportedly funded by the music industry to the tune of £64m annually, in winning $3.62m (£2.4m) damages from Pirate Bay constitutes a missed opportunity to adapt to a media climate in which they may shortly no longer exist. Not only did Pirate Bay never physically host copyrighted content, as others have noted, by treating file-sharing as an issue of legality, rather than as an opportunity to review its business models, the entertainment industry may well end up winning the battle, but losing the war. Rumours that these kinds of prosecutions will continue until the revenues for DVDs and CDs have collapsed abound, but the argument coming from film studios in particular is that convictions like that of Pirate Bay operate on the same basis as in the war on drugs – serving more as a deterrent than as part of their business plan.

Indeed, the music and movie industry's reaction to the verdict would perhaps look less ridiculous if it wasn't for the fact that alternatives to conventional distribution models are so widespread. Significant moves towards countering piracy by making content free or subsidised include YouTube's deal with Sony, which promises to legitimise reams of content that users would previously have had to visit illegal sources to watch. ITunes offers distribution for films and music and the author Paulo Coelho has found that distributing his novel The Alchemist on Pirate Bay recently has seen a boost in international sales.

But in response to the question of where copyrighted creative content industries can go next as piracy becomes paradoxically both more heavily policed and more widespread, record labels in particular may look to China, where Google has unveiled the final iteration of a service which allows all internet users in the country to download the entire back-catalogues of Warner, Universal, EMI and Sony and 140 other music companies for free. In a country with a legitimate music industry worth just $76m because of widespread piracy, and with an online population which has overtaken that of the USA, advertising accompanying legitimate free downloads is expected to replace money that would once have been made through conventional sales, while simultaneously cutting the detrimental effect to the environment of manufacturing millions of tonnes of plastic for CDs and DVDs.

Whether Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Varg, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstroem spend 12 months at the pleasure of the Swedish government or succeed in the appeal they are likely to lodge, a revolution in filesharing is underway. Not only did the ruling omit any order to close down piratebay.org but, with servers in Belgium and Russia – the latter considered a haven for all manner of illegal internet activities – the site continues to see traffic rise and seems unlikely to face legal action which will impact its operations any time soon.

Moreover, with alternative torrent sites like Mininova and Torrentz having so far escaped the jurisdiction, it is time Hollywood and the record industries face up to the fact that their current business models leave them at risk of extinction. "As in all good movies, the heroes lose in the beginning but have an epic victory in the end anyhow," a comment posted on The Pirate Bay's website read yesterday. "That's the only thing Hollywood ever taught us."

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Comments

Jason Wright
[info]rttech82 wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 11:15 am (UTC)
Pirate Bay totally ROCKS!

RT
www.privacy.pro.tc
You seriously mean they live by these motto?
[info]famulla wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 12:02 pm (UTC)
This trial has only made torrent sites much stronger
You seriously mean they live by these motto?
I thank you
Firozali A. Mulla
[info]vitriolize wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 12:40 pm (UTC)
Nothing will really happen with thepiratebay in another 5 years or so until the appeal is resolved in Swedish Supreme Court.

So until that time, I'm off to steal more money from the music artists. God know they need the 80 cents.
real issues
[info]fake108jim wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 01:07 pm (UTC)
this isn't really about "copyright" and "poor starving artists" or even "poor starving mega-corporations".

Copyright means party X is allowed to restrict party Y's distribution copies of some information, by definition. This is justified in the "copyright" case by saying party X is the "copyright holder" of the information, though authoring it..., BUT:
It's a trivial truth that digital data is all just 0s and 1s. Copyright doesn't (can't) magically make some 0s and 1s "special" (except in the technologically clueless eyes of lawyers, recording industry execs and the occasional slow-on-the-uptake artist). You can't really tell the difference at a fundamental 0s and 1s level between a frivolous but copyrighted pop song and a vitally important information leak about some government abuse. In both cases, technology to restrict the distribution of either has ultimately exactly the same functional requirements.

So you can't enforce copyright technologically without building an architecture that can control ALL 0s and 1s. Copyright supporters are one of the three main groups of "willing idiots" the authoritarians behind the scenes are using to build a digital police state. We simply /have to/ abolish copyright, and establish a "right to copy" (not necessarily a right to plagiarise i.e. copy without attribution, but that's another matter)

This is why thepiratebay.org and wikileaks.org are helped to exist by some of the same people [1] - ultimately, they're doing the same thing, evading information distribution control. Call it "copyright enforcement, protecting the poor starving artists" and applaud it, or call it "police state censorship" and deplore it, at a technical level THEY ARE THE SAME THING - person X is trying to stop people Y and Z communicating freely.

[1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/21/wikileaks_bulletproof_hosting/


Pyrrhic victory
[info]uanime5 wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 03:29 pm (UTC)
This is hardly an IFP victory given that the Pirate Bay is not going to be shut down, people can still share files, and many people are going to be annoyed at IFP for bringing this case.
information wants to be free!
[info]noaccountforme wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 04:53 pm (UTC)
Media content is information and the internet is a network. Someone please explain to those dunces in the media companies what information does on networks.

Information wants to be free!
Pay Only For Live Performances
[info]georgesign wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 05:17 pm (UTC)
Musicians used to be paid only for live performances. It is just a lucky quirk of technology that recording was invented and then the system was developed. Musicians and the companies that record them make millions. Now by a quirk of modern technology people are able to by-pass the system. Well that's tough for the recording companies but that's life. Recording companies are just using their wealth and muscle to keep their dying system alive. It won't work. Musicians will just have to go back to being paid for live performances.
Re: Pay Only For Live Performances
[info]nigeldorser wrote:
Sunday, 19 April 2009 at 06:23 am (UTC)
Other business models from the past may also be relevant in the post-copyright era. One that's relevant for films and novels is fund-and-release, in which we commit to pay before the artists deliver, but actually pay afterwards. See www.takoha.org for an outline.
[info]ourmaninferney wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 06:37 pm (UTC)
I might have more sympathy for these mega-corporations if they would stop blathering on about "protecting the artists". Very little of what you pay for a CD ends up in the pockets of the musicians playing the music. The biggest chunk, by far, goes to the recording label. The majority of professional musicians receive their income from live performances because they get, quite literally, nothing from the record labels.
[info]afree87 wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 07:09 pm (UTC)
BitTorrent should have died long ago-- it has no security mechanism. If MPAA defeats it, what will arise in its place will be impossible to destroy.
Great Torrent: CD3WD
[info]copycat7 wrote:
Saturday, 18 April 2009 at 10:15 pm (UTC)
Google "cd3wd"

The greatest torrent of all time!
Don't forget
[info]tallbendyman wrote:
Sunday, 19 April 2009 at 11:50 am (UTC)
Lots of torrents are perfectly legal...

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