Online piracy laws: Is it just about the money?

Online piracy laws: Is it just about the money?

Summary: The online piracy bill is even closer to becoming law. Some argue it is political, some say it has been rushed and not considered properly. I say it's about money.


British Telecom - the UK's telecommunications provider, TalkTalk and O2 - two major ISPs, Google and YouTube, the British Library, eBay, Yahoo!, the Open Rights Group, and Facebook, along with tens of thousands of citizens if not more, but also the biggest, richest and most influential organisations in the world oppose the UK Internet piracy bill which could force users offline if caught downloading material.

But one industry likes it. The music industry.

The House of Lords have passed this legislation which means this new bill could become law before the general election in the next couple of months, amid criticisms that it has been rushed and not thought through properly.

Students and the Generation Y have been built up on this technology and I am a strong advocate of Pandora's box theory. The consequences of cutting off access to the web to individuals with little, non-substantive or no evidence are huge not only morally and economically but legally.

Universities are facing potentially disruptive action as IP addresses traced to on-campus machines are forcing these institutions to take responsibility for illegal file-sharing when they can either blame the student or knuckle-down the network and infringe upon academic freedom.

The new law will work, basically, like this:

But there is so much more to it than the black and white of "legal vs. illegal". Focus on political leverage and positioning with corporate giants and money, and you'll probably get to a clearer answer.

An interesting debate between the Featured Artists Coalition and the opposition shows some artists seeing the Internet as a benefit rather than a threat, using the web and social media to start their careers and spreading their own work naturally without the need of the music industry backing. One could argue this is the main threat to the music industry - artists not needing or wanting the assistance of the sector unlike a few decades ago where physical records and capitalist function was the end result.

But the "illegal downloading" definition is still sparse, undefined and loose at least. I don't use torrents unless absolutely necessary as they are not always dependable as other people may not have a high connection, or the file may simply not be available. Yet through RapidShare, MediaFire, FilesTube and more, these web hosted areas offer HTTP downloads which are as fast as you can download. These, unlike torrents, can still be traced but with more difficulty as court orders must be issued, server logs searched, and frankly this is a legal mindfield and rarely happens.

As far as I am concerned, downloading copyrighted material through a HTTP service like RapidShare is your best way of avoiding detection. Though I don't advocate anonymity systems which are available to use, there are ways of bypassing detection through use of torrents. On to Figure 2.

Public consumer group Which? Computing is investigating claims that a law firm has sent letters to over 150 people who it claims have downloaded files illegally without providing evidence. Many are worried that some could be wrongly accused and finding proof of such activity is difficult enough as it is anyway. While in a court of law you are granted a defence, it is impossible to prove that you haven't done something as proving a negative cannot be done.

So as I see it, Lord Mandelson, a politician who was sacked from the Cabinet twice before and brought back by a dying Labour government as a member of the House of Lords as a non-elected representative, to now attempt to rush through these draconian measures to cut off illegal downloaders before the General Election.

But why?

I believe many will agree that not knowing something is worse than the result itself. An unknown illness which brings you down for years is relief to know just what it is, rather than anything else. Simply knowing something - an answer, a reason or a diagnosis - can be enough to settle most minds. But getting hard, descriptive answers from a politician is harder than squeezing blood from a stone. If Mandelson explains the reasons honestly and frankly, perhaps we could regroup and take stock for another plan of action.

But I can bet my lucky stars it will not happen. Frankly it feels like I'm banging my head against a brick wall whenever I write about this subject because no matter how hard we shout, the government doesn't listen. We can only hope and pray that this controversial piece of legislation will be political suicide and the succeeding government will drop the plans or at least refine them to bolster public interest and spirit.

Topics: Browser, Government, Government US, Hardware, Mobility

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  • Greedy pirates are just about the money too.

    Without getting into the merits of this particular legislation:

    Pirates get their music for free, because they are too greedy to pay for it. It's just another form of shoplifting/theft.
    • Ever hear of

      "Due Process?"

      Look it up sometime.
    • Only in your mind

      Need I remind you: AM/FM radio.... which is free.... which makes getting something in 'higher quality' online not a big worry or 'wrong' for me, if any 'wrong' at all!
      • Need I remind you:

        AM/FM radio is paid for by either user support or by advertising. The music played on these stations is of course licensed, in bulk, from its respective owners.

        So what exactly was your point?
        • My Guess: that as long as he profits from it

          it doesn't matter who else loses money?
          John Zern
        • Wrong Premise, Wrong Question

          There is currently a huge conflict brewing in congress between artists and broadcasters over the nonpayment of royalties to performers.

          When a radio station plays a piece of recorded music, royalties are paid to the publisher/songwriter and the record company. The artists who actually perform the piece get zilch, nada, nothing.

          The USA is pretty much the only developed nation where this is allowed. In fact, US artists can't get reciprocal payments from other nations because the USA doesn't collect and pay such royalties for their artists.(Considering that this is one of the very few areas where a trade imbalance actually [and hugely] favors the US, this is stupid in the extreme.)

          And the rationale that the broadcasters put forward for allowing their(exploitation)free use of the artists' product? They claim that they are "advertising" the product and, thus, increasing revenue for performers by increasing the audience size at live shows. They offer no proof, just a 'logical assumption' which would hold true and work just as well for allowing downloads. But the RIAA and the broadcasters get paid, so no big deal.

          • That makes me wonder:

            If it is advertising, why then must radio stations pay them a licensing fee instead of them paying the radio stations an advertising fee?
    • the market has changed

      many users want to have access to large collections that they probably will never play - what are people going to fill all these shiny new 2 TB hard drives with

      Free downloading is seen by many as a replacement for radio - you listen to lots and buy things you like but without the hastle of having to listen to manic DJ's follow schedules or be bombarded with advertising.

      The music industry (if its really needed at all) could adapt and change direction - I know people who download movies and then still go and see them in the cinema to get the full experience - its just that they want to watch them on their own timescale not wait until they are released as a marketing ploy.

      Of course the ones who stand to lose are the businesses selling over hyped rubbish that sells in millions but dissapoints audiences - oops am I talking about the music and film industries
      • I hope the cable and satellite companies

        don't come knocking.

        I'm sure alot of people look at stealing cable and satellite signals as just a replacement for free television.
        John Zern
        • stealing cable...

          will get you 5 to 10 years in prison.
    • Its nothing like shoplifting or theft. Not even close.

      That always seems to be one of the first claims out of the self righteous mouths of those who claim to be piracy free.

      Shoplifting or theft requires the taking of a specified thing from one entity so that they no longer possess it and the one who took the thing now has it. Its a kind of transfer of wealth which enriches the entity doing the taking at the cost of the entity thats taken from.

      What this is, is copying plain and simple, and copying with permission from an individual who legally possesses the thing being copied. The only way any law is even being broken at all here is that the purchasers of copyright protected materials don't actually purchase the rights to allow others to copy the thing they purchased. It really and truly is nothing like shoplifting at all. Its a completely different animal entirely.

      The entertainment and software industry likes the public to think of it as some form of theft but they know fully well it really has nothing to do with theft. For example, what is the thing being stolen? What property is being taken from anyone or anything? The only thing one might claim (and often be wrong) is that potential profit from the sale of another copy of the property is lost by the creator of that property as the person who copied it is now far less likely to purchase one of the creators copies.

      That concept is poor at best. Its a well known fact that many people who download like this would never purchase anything near all the things they have downloaded and in some cases they would not have purchased any of the things they have downloaded. Its usually a case where very little potential profit is lost at all. Further it isnt that uncommon for some people who can afford it to go out after the fact and in fact purchase the very thing they have downloaded.

      Where the real problem is, is where you have people copying and then selling cheap copies. That clearly indicates at least an intent on the part of the purchaser to buy the content. In that case there definitely was at least some potential profit lost. That is far more criminal then the common run of the mill P2P copying that usually goes on.
    • Git yer music fer free anyway just don't use RIAA artests

      Yea freedom! Not *everyone* prohibits
      downloading their content!!!

      LEGAL D/L Do not listen to RIAA stuff no radio
      no TV! Do not buy CDs! Just legal MP3 from those
      who are not party to madness. BOYCOTT RIAA I
      need some T shirts made up! Where is my no
      copyright radio? No music that is copyrighted

      Time to kick this into high gear the political
      jokers have bent you over! YOU WILL TAKE IT you
      have no say you are worthless maggots eh?

      Political rape my rights makes me sick. How
      about you? Who will step up? You been beat down
      • No music that is copyrighted played?

        You clearly are ignorant of copyright law.

        Once a song is written, it is automatically copyrighted by US copyright law.

        While I do not currently have any copyrighted material on the net, having suffered severe financially over the past few years, I am adverse to anyone who expects me to utilize my talents for free.

        Because of vial, evil, and wicked people like you, I came close to dieing.

        During that period; vial, evil and wicked people like you, clamored for me to get work I could either not perform, had not chance of keeping, or had no possibility of obtaining due to a lack of experience. All the while those same vial, evil and wicked people, demanded that the talents and skills I could do, had to be done without pay.

        That however, is of no concern to you. Because vial, evil and wicked people like you, want what you want for free, even if it means that the person you stole the copyrighted work from, dies.
        • Oh gimmie a break... lol...


          Can I pull out the violins while the violets and the daffodils grow in the lush green fields and the birds keep on singing.

          Hey, [i]Cry Me A River[/i] plays in the background...


          Now why don't you go get a real job. Washing dishes, maybe?
          still not nice
  • RE: Online piracy laws: Is it just about the money?

    i agree, but I think the point the article was trying to make and should stress more, is that if you are accused of illegal downloading, how do you prove you didn't? There's no grounds for defense from accusations the way this is set-up. And forcing libraries and universities to monitor every possible avenue that a user could obtain pirated materials via the net and the institutions PCs is outright ludicrous, and virtually impossible.

    This does open a new door for hackers to do DDOS attacks, force a botted Pc to download pirated material from known pirating sites and get the ISP to cut off service and have the music and/or movie industry to sue the daylights out of them, or at least start proceedings. talk about money and time lost. They do this to a few government owned PCs or PCs of high ranking government officials and then you'll see talks about revising this bill/law at the very least, though maybe making it even stricter.
    • You actually think some hacker

      You actually think some hacker is going to scare the goverment from making laws they dont like?? AHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAH. It might be hard to catch them, but dont think for one minute they will get away with that.
      • No, real thieves don't get caught by online

        theft prevention methods. Real thieves just nimbly dodge them with a moment's amusement.

        The only people who get caught in these misbegotten schemes are the innocent.

        Yet the people with real interests - like the music and entertainment companies - don't care who gets caught, guilty or innocent. It does not matter because they get to squeeze [u]someone[/u] for "mo' money."

        And no, we don't download either music or movies. We buy ours retail on CDs and DVDs.
        • um, actually you do.

          When you go to YouTube, and you watch that video, you are downloading that video.

          Question is; does that law consider that a violation?

          If so, that automatically makes everyone on the net a criminal.
          • I'd call you in from left field

            but you're too far away.

            You completely missed the point.
  • Define downloading copyrighted material.

    In the US at least, anything you or I create is automatically copyrighted. Every web page is copyrighted, evey blog, etc. So the question becomes, which copyrighted work is illegal and how do users know which is which? Don't we have to download this copyrighted work to see it on our PCs?

    Now compound it further with both RIAA and the MPAA releasing a lot of copyrighted work for free downloads. (Think of the millions of song samples or movie trailers.) If I download and watch a 3 minute music video do I have any way of knowing if its "good" copyrighted material or "bad". Both are under the same exact copyright laws. (In the US)

    Taking that further, the MPAA and the RIAA regularly use P2P networks to share their copyrighted material in order to catch downloaders (IP identification), but, they also use them in hopes of a video going "viral". Viral videos are the dream of every musical or acting artist and the companies behind them. Again, how as a user am I to make the determination on whish is appropiate or not? If the RIAA or MPAA "share" the content (regardless of why they are doing it) haven't they given implied consent?

    My point is, trillions of bits containing copyrighted material travel the internet every second and every bit of it is copyrighted. How am I or any user to make a determination on good / bad content when EVERYTHING is copyrighted?