So about those illegal downloads

So about those illegal downloads

Summary: PC World posted an interesting article today about the sale of The Pirate Bay. Titled "Pirate Bay Sale Signals the Death of an Era", the article brings up some important potential implications for education in secondary schools as well as for enforcement at colleges and universities.

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TOPICS: Software
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PC World posted an interesting article today about the sale of The Pirate Bay. Titled "Pirate Bay Sale Signals the Death of an Era", the article brings up some important potential implications for education in secondary schools as well as for enforcement at colleges and universities.

As the author points out,

The free software movement has gained critical mass. For most applications, there are free variants available. In lieu of Microsoft Office, we have OpenOffice.org. In lieu of Adobe Photoshop, we have the GIMP. With few exceptions, most paid applications have a free alternative. If people want to "stick it to the man" why not support the free software movement rather than pirating copyrighted apps? And if there's still a commercial app that's so essential that you can't accept a free alternative, perhaps that's a sign that you should actually pay the people who worked to create it.

The same goes for music. Many artists distribute their music for free now via a variety of media:

Why not support these musicians by actually purchasing their music? Many of them give their music away for free just because they want to be heard. By illegally downloading the work of a self-promoted artist, you're just sticking it to the little guy, and that's just plain jerky.

The real point here, though, is that there is a paradigm shift underway. Whether it's the legitimization of the Pirate Bay, the conviction of the Pirate Bay's founders, or the conviction (to the tune of almost $2 million) of a woman for relatively minor filesharing, the wild west of torrents is coming to an end.

So what does that mean for our students? Whether in middle school, high school, or college, most of them think nothing of just downloading the content they want from any number of torrent sites. How many people under 25 do you know who purchased all of the music on their iPods? Zero? One or two if you teach at a Catholic school?

This behavior has to change. I don't mind the idea of "sticking it to the man." I'm Gen X enough to not be overly fussed about taking a mix cd from someone. I'm geeky enough to use free software whenever I can. However, it's clear that both legal and cultural tides are turning against the rampant file sharing in which most of our students engage. RIAA is winning more cases, colleges are blocking P2P entirely, and Trent Reznor is actually making millions on the music he gives away for free.

Add it to your list of Internet education bullet points. Students can no longer afford to take such a cavalier attitude towards file sharing. The real question, though, is how to communicate to students about copyright infringement in terms that mean something to them. Michael Scalisi makes a good start in the PC World article, but any other suggestions would be welcome. Talk back below.

Topic: Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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53 comments
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  • Frankly, no one cares about copyright infringement

    When these things are still overpriced
    dramatically or have things like DRM in them that
    discourage people from buying the things in
    question.
    Lerianis10
    • So what?

      Then don't purchase it, and learn to do without.

      But there lies [i][b]the real problem[/b][/i], the fact that this generation some how feels they are entitled to these things, that it is somehow wrong that they have to learn to do without, even if they cannot afford them, or disagree with the pricing structure, where they justify the theft with the logic that "[i]I[/i] do not think the price is right, so I am justified in stealing it"

      In the past if we did not like the cost of something, we did not purchase it, today if you dislike the cost of something, you steal it; the "because I can, I will" attitude.

      Funny though, that when it works the other way around, and someone steals from them because they cannot afford an iPod, or disagree with the price of something they are selling, then it become "totally wrong"
      GuidingLight
      • copyright infringement is not theft

        legally because IP is not protected by the same
        laws as physical property, and because laws
        defines two different infractions, and morally
        because while theft causes a loss of property,
        copyright infringement does not.

        As a result you certainly cannot compare copyright
        infringement and the theft of physical property
        the way you do in this comment
        s_souche
        • you don't get it

          There are laws to protect intellectual property, and there are laws to protect physical property. The two sets of laws are different. So far I agree with you, but to conclude that because there are different laws, then one type of infraction against property ownership laws is not theft is simply broken logic. Theft is theft is theft.

          "[...] and morally because while theft causes a loss of property, copyright infringement does not."

          Stealing someone's artistic output, software design, or other intellectual work means depriving the creator of their income. In the end, it means we all lose because the incentive to creative professionals has been removed.
          tomasb
          • Nope sir

            it is depriving them on one opportunity to have
            generated income that could not have
            materialized. there is a huge difference, and
            that difference is recognized by the law that
            does not qualify the two the same way, and does
            not impose on them the same punitions either.

            Where you to steal the only manuscript of the
            last harry potter would not have the same
            consequences for its author than making a copy
            of it. The first is theft, the second is
            Copyright infringement. You see there is a
            difference.


            Were you to steal a DVD in a shop, that would
            be theft, because the author would be paid but
            not the shop owner. He, would lose physical
            property.

            I agree that while vrey interresting, the
            distinction cannot be conveyed with a three
            words sentence, so IP owner tend to compare
            infringement to theft, but I think the argument
            backslashes more often than it does not.
            s_souche
          • I see you are still trying to make yourself feel less guilty...

            You should write a book about this, one that people can copy to their heart's content. You just refuse to admit that Denial of Income *IS* theft. If someone blocked your way in the door to get to work, and you couldn't make any money for a week, you would feel you had been robbed of your income.

            ReadWryt (error)
          • yes

            you can feel you have been robbed. But that is a biased moral consideration, not a legal One.

            By the way I don't try to make myself ess guilty. first because I never stated which mly usage was, and second I never stated that legally copyright infringement was less important than theft
            s_souche
          • Are you retarded?

            Blocking someone from their workplace is actively
            preventing them from earning money.

            Choosing not to buy something is called
            "boycotting". Whether you make/download a copy of
            it yourself or simply abstain from it entirely,
            makes no difference to anyone except yourself.
            AzuMao
        • Yeah, uuuuuh. You keep telling yourself that.

          "and morally because while theft causes a loss of property, copyright infringement does not."

          ...and when I crash a computer needed for you to continue earning your income, yet the owner of that computer does not press charges, you will be first in line to come after me for your "Loss of Income". Your rationalization and justification fall short of Legal reality.
          ReadWryt (error)
      • Right.

        Stealing music is bad.

        The thing is, making an identical copy of
        something isn't stealing.

        Stealing means actually depriving the original
        owner of it. Like the RIAA does to artists.
        AzuMao
  • The pirate bay

    Is technologically the pure equivallent of Napster : a central server maintaining a list of peers possessing the different asset they track. As a centralized repository they are very exposed judiciary.

    What happens apparently with the buy out of TPB will be the end of centralzed torrent tracker system to move toward a decentralized peer to peer torrent tracker system.

    File sharing is going a little bit deeper underground.

    P2P blocks by university are not there to prevent download, but to legally protect the university or the students. I don't see a univesity not haing loads of IP protected material shared on file servers, either hosted by the university itself or by the students, these have no need almost of p2p d/l.

    The offer of protected content has to evolve to meet a marker they have lsot or are loosing. Music is moving already with the suppression of DRMs, that made the music impossible to play or player actually sold in the street, movies have not started to change their dematerialized policy and neither has the software industry. But they will move to their audience and underground p2p will then lose momentum, but not before that
    s_souche
    • lol

      The entire concept of DRM is fundamentally
      flawed. It is based solely on security through
      obscurity and is incapable of actually
      "protecting" anything.

      And the only thing a downfall of centralized
      trackers would signal is the rise of total
      crypto-anarchy.. at which point there'd really
      be [i]nothing[/i] anyone could do against file-
      sharing.
      AzuMao
  • The cultural tide is turning? Really?

    I would say that there's an entire generation of kids who have never bought a CD in their lives, and paying a dollar to Apple for a song is something they do when it's inconvenient to get that song from a friend.

    The content industry's "digital data are the same as real property" business model is already dead. Game and other software vendors have all but accepted this and moved as much as they can to service-, microtransaction- and ad-based models. We're in that phase now where they just keep buying politicians and piling on the laws to try to keep it afloat, like a man in a sinking boat frantically bailing it out rather than fixing the fundamental problem. Suing kids is like suing the rock that tore the hole in his boat.

    The only people who think the Pirate Bay and Jammie Thomas verdicts and the sale of the Pirate Bay signal a tipping point where "Don't Copy That Floppy" embodies a philosophy that kids take to heart are the kind of people who think Twitter is taking over the interwebs.
    raindog469
  • yeah right..

    "the wild west of torrents is coming to an end."
    lmao now thats believable..NOT!! torrents aint gonna go
    away, currently im downloading a couple of bands
    discography's.
    tdk650
  • What world do you live in?

    You are way out of touch. Really.
    DJ Bang
  • "Sticking it to the man"

    Quite frankly, I don't think "sticking it to the man" is the real reason why people pirate.
    Part of it is of course because it's free. But I think a bigger part is simplicity and reliability.

    All music from all labels are available the very moment (sometimes before) it is released. All TV shows from all networks are available a few moments after they air. You don't have to deal with exclusivity deals amongst TV-stations.

    The fact that people outside the US are blocked from services like Hulu or Pandora, and the fact that the owners of Hulu are actively trying to prevent users who live in the US from using their service in software like Boxee, guarantees that piracy will continue to thrive.
    Theli
  • RE: So about those illegal downloads

    The DMCA was purchased by US corporations through
    campaign contributions and heavy lobbying and has no
    moral justification. This law is heavy handed and not
    balanced.

    If laws are not fair and people do not believe that they are
    fair then they will not be followed.

    This is much like the 55 MPH speed limit on US interstates
    that was the "law" for so many years. Unreasonable laws
    just will not be followed.
    gertruded
    • RE: So about those illegal downloads

      Laws written by Lobbyists and signed by corrupt politicians that will one day be overturned are not laws unto the people simply because 450 fat pink greedy men feel it should be so.

      You strike meas the kind of guy who would stop drinking alcohol during Prohibition.

      Life as sheep, while safe and cuddly is no way to live.
      Bodazapha
      • RE: Life as sheep

        So then, you only follow the laws you like? Anti-piracy laws aren't robbing you of your freedom, they're just making it difficult for you to get music you want for free. Are they great laws? No, not really. Yes they can be heavy-handed, but then you work to change the laws from within the system. You're not some patriot because you pirate music. Your fundamental freedoms are not at stake because you can't get your music for free. As for Prohibition, it might have been an unpopular law, and many people may have ignored it, but when you break the law, then you better be prepared for the consequences. If all you had to do to get away with breaking the law is say "I don't agree with that law", then we'd have a lawless society. I hope if you live your life only obeying the laws that are 'convienent', then you accept the consequences, and don't b*tch and moan when someone else robs you blind because they didn't 'agree' with laws against theft and robbery.
        branchman67
        • Freedom of speech

          Ever heard of it? It means communication shall not
          be policed. First amendment. Read up on it.
          AzuMao