The Internet and piracy are here to stay

The Internet and piracy are here to stay

Summary: Will killing media piracy destroy the Internet? Is it even possible to stop piracy?


The recent brouhaha over SOPA AND PIPA, the shutdown of MegaUpload and arrest of its owners, and the resulting attacks against the parties involved have generated much debate of the future of the Internet and the viability of piracy.

Also See:

Fellow ZDNet columnist Stephen Chapman posits that if the current trend in cracking down on online piracy continues, then the Internet itself will case to exist in its current form; that in order to remain free, piracy must exist.

As we've seen, however, something as draconian as SOPA and PIPA proved to be will generate a large enough outcry that even the lobbyist-bribed politicians were unable to ignore. Especially not with election season around the corner.

I do not agree with Stephen's assertion. Software and media piracy have existed for decades--even centuries. That's why there are copyright laws. And books, movies, music, TV shows, and software were pirated and distributed before the advent of Internet for the masses.

The only thing that crackdowns on piracy do is force the pirates to find other avenues for their activities. As Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols and Charlie Osborne pointed out, even if you shut down all file sharing services, there are still options. Bittorrent and Usenet are viable options, and have been for some time.

The problem with piracy is twofold. For one, the media companies make ridiculous amounts of money at the expense of the artists. Many of them never see a piece of the billions that the MPAA and the RIAA and the companies they represent rake in every year.

Also, instead of embracing the Internet as another medium for distribution and revenue, they instead jack up prices even more for something that costs them even less to distribute. And the artists usually see none of that revenue, either.

Instead of utilizing Internet distribution as a viable business model, they fight tooth and nail against it. And yet somehow Apple and Amazon have proven that it does work, in spite of all of the obstacles put in their way.

The media companies are locked in hidebound mentality that is incapable of coming to grips with the fact that if they punish their customers instead of accommodating them, they simply drive them to piracy instead of generating more revenue.

Of course, there will always be people that will never spend money on anything, and demand everything for free. They are actually the minority. Unfortunately, the companies that back--and help write--bad legislation like SOPA and PIPA see everyone as a criminal, and treat them as such.

Pushing for draconian legislation and punishing your customers is the wrong message to be sending if you want people to back you. Don't punish the customers. Work with them. Because this will not kill the Internet, and will result in even more lost sales. People that didn't pirate media before would do it in retaliation for being treated like a criminal.

Topics: Piracy, Browser, Enterprise Software, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The MAFIAA needs a smack-down to get them to wake up

    There needs to be a major legal setback for the copyright monopolists. If you look at what happened after the US Supreme Court gave the MPAA a lesson in "Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984)" you can see a huge rush by the media giants to fill the wants and needs of the consumer.

    As soon as there is some significant legal defeat of the push for eternal copyright monopoly the floodgates will again open and we will see the media companies start to embrace the internet instead of trying to kill it.
    • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

      @sismoc If only the average consumer could buy politicians like the MAFIAA can.
    • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay


      1. SOPA and its ilk are poorly written (welfare for lawyers) and should be shelved
      2. Theft anywhere is illegal including the internet (piracy is theft)
      3. Businesses (corporate or otherwise) do cater to their customers or risk failure
      4. Property rights are second to individual rights but individual rights do not seem to include the right to steal another's property
      5. Don't like the price or costs...don't buy it (not a good reason to steal it)
      • There is a difference between copyright and property

        @J Hartsock The media industry likes to promote the meme of "intellectual property" as if it was the same sort of property as a motorbike. It isn't. Copyright is a contract between society and (in theory) artists to allow artists to reap reasonable rewards from their creations, and in turn enrich society. The "copyright revenue guarantee contract" between society and artists has changed many times over the last 100 years, every time when society has determined that the gains by encouraging new technologies and forms of art are more important than the entrenched business models of the previous generation of media moguls. For a readable and interesting background on the history and realities of intellectual "property" read Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig (free download available). It will open your eyes to the marketing of the phrase "intellectual property"- after all, compared to a campaign against "piracy" (those stinking bloodthirsty amoral fiends!) there are not many people who would be as supportive for an MPAA campaign "support our right to increasing profits, no change to our business models, and ultimate control over over all forms of distribution".
      • Re; Theft anywhere is illegal including the internet (piracy is theft)

        @J Hartsock <br>No.<br>That is not true.<br>The definition of theft is to remove something from its rightful owner.<br>Copying does not remove the original from existence.<br>Besides; copyright is a [b] privilege and not a property [/b] !<br>Privileges can be taken away by the ones who granted them in the first place and that would be perfectly legal.<br>These privileges has become perverse compared to the original.<br>It was 14 years from publication and it was designed originally to protect artists /authors from unscrupulous publishers and [b] not against the public [/b], who through governments granted the privileges.
  • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

    Just like drugs? Sorry.. doesn't justify it.
  • Is there a legal way to stop piracy without resorting to Draconian measures

    Apple first attempted to combat piracy (of musical digital media) with the iTunes business model. Charge a nominal fee for a song. De-emphasize the album model (a collection of songs) and emphasize the "single song" download model.

    As Scott pointed out, piracy is a direct response to exorbitant purchase costs for a particular product. Lower the costs involved .. lower the piracy. In actuality, that might be the only effective tool civilizations can use to combat the "Megauploads" of the world.
  • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

    "[i]Pushing for draconian legislation and punishing your customers is the wrong message to be sending if you want people to back you. Don???t punish the customers. Work with them. Because this will not kill the Internet, and will result in even more lost sales. People that didn???t pirate media before would do it in retaliation for being treated like a criminal.[/i]"

    Agreed 100%.
    • RE: Pushing for draconian legislation and punishing your customers...

      @lehnerus2000 <br><br>I must ask, "How do you expect a group of entrenched ID10Ts to display any [i]leadership[/i] here"?<br><br>It is my not so humble opinion that there is more intelligence in the daily excremental output of a large zoo; than exists in the heads of these ID10Ts.
      • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

        That is one possibility.

        What if the opposite is true?
        The Corporations and Government [b]know it will fail[/b] and will use that as an excuse to introduce even more draconian legislation.
        [b]"It's about time we put those useless peasants back in their sewers."[/b]
  • Is there even a collective will any longer to halt piracy?

    I don't doubt the authorities can put a sizable dent in piracy by use of quasi legal constricts coupled with enough effort, but the bigger problem lies in the collateral damage that is almost certain to occur. Both by way of the new and uncharted judicial precedents they're aiming to set, and per anyone who happens to be caught in the ensuing crossfire.<br><br>If the issue could be neatly cubbyholed and any peripheral fallout contained, it'd be one thing. But I'd bet my last nickel that will not be the case. Conventional wisdom suggests that as soon as they're given an inch, they'll expect (and demand) a mile.<br><br>Knowing Hollywood is behind these painted pig measures hardly helps. Knowing further that the entertainment and media conglomerates make obscene amounts of jack as it is, often at the expense of others who are more deserving, further restricts tears and wisps of sympathy. [exception withstanding to Khan Manka Jr. -- alone]<br><br>The reality is, a lot of everyday folk no longer relate to Tinsel Town, no more than they do to Wall Street, the Multinational corpse, or our Federal-gone-One-World government, all of whom are swimming in pools of loot and self privilege. What are any of them doing to resist, let alone reverse, the decline of this country? Besides stuffing their pockets, as well as foreign ones, while promising a brighter tomorrow.<br><br>Depriving the masses of honest, gainful employment makes pirates and paupers out of common folk, and in numbers that rival the wayward and criminal elements the entertainment industry, buttressed by legions of lobbyist and legalese proxies, are claiming to target.<br><br>[i]And when you ask them, "How much should we give?" Ooh, they only answer [b]"More! more! more!"[/b][/i] -- J.C. Fogerty, Fortunate Son (Creedence)
  • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

    I thought this article was pretty spot on. /agree
  • Stop Attacking the Wrong Problem

    As I have said many times before, you cannot legislate ethics. The solution is education. It starts in every home. We must behave properly and teach our children to as well. How many of us can say WE have never improperly downloaded or copied protected material? If we do it so will our children. They will do it because they think its okay since all their friends do it. This is the trend we must reverse and it will take time. Laws are useless unless people learn to respect them.
    • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

      @JPuglisiLLC Respect is earned.
    • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

      @JPuglisiLLC: Not effective. If those bright happy shiny educated people you propose to create are treated no differently than the less "properly taught" folks of today (and they won't be), they'll turn pirate for exactly the same reason.

      Children don't eventually "pirate" things because mom and dad did, they do it because that's how the "content owners" want them to. Not conciously, but by treating all users like potential criminals and then using dead and outdated models to restrict distribution of content all over the world.

      When folks in the US have to wait 2 years to see a British TV show (and vice versa), it gets sent to folks who want to see it by hook or by crook. And to perdition with "agreements" between content providers over when and where (and even "if") each program will air.

      The iTunes model proves this time and again. People who can see a legal copy of Doctor Who via iTunes almost as soon as the show airs in the UK don't care if it can be had by bittorrent. They'll get the iTunes version to be guaranteed an error and damage free copy.

      This problem is purely about ossified thinking and outdated business models. I seem to recall a certain problem involving a "content killing" technology called "movable type". Business models that do not evolve deserve to die in obscurity.
    • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

      "I learned it by watching you!"
      <a href="!">Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs.</a>
      Brought to you by Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

      I disagree that, "we must reverse the trend," you speak of, but I do agree that laws are useless.
  • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

    Governments and corporations have as much of a chance as ending prostitution as they will piracy.
  • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

    Big media shot itelf in the foot when it overturned the very comfortable compromise we had a few decades ago. Large-scale distribution of unauthorized copies for profit was verboten. Personal-use copying was permitted and subsidized by a surchage added to blank media and paid to the media companies. It worked. Consumers were happy, big media made money, what was the problem with this model?
    • Re; what was the problem with this model?

      Greed !
      It is never enough.
  • RE: The Internet and piracy are here to stay

    Try to keep in mind that Piracy happens on both sides of the cash register.