The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

Summary: Piracy finds its way into just about every legitimate avenue on the Internet. As such, the death of online piracy via shutting down otherwise legitimate sites and services could mean the end of the Internet as we know it.

The death of online piracy: the U.S. government wants it and copyright holders want it, but at what cost? As we've seen from SOPA and PIPA, the government would be willing to completely cripple the Internet to see to the death of online piracy; and now, the shuttering of MegaUpload by the U.S. government (as a result of pressure from copyright holders) has caused waves in the file-sharing business; a business that -- amongst perfectly legal profits -- is rife with HUGE profits that come as a direct result of the sharing of pirated content. Yes, the death of online piracy as we currently know it is going to happen at some point; but to severely cripple (never mind completely obliterate) online piracy would come at the cost of the current freedoms the Internet enjoys -- be it from an end-user perspective, a service provider perspective, or both. You see, I am more fascinated with piracy than most. It's a topic that has captivated me for many years and the debates sparked on the subject are absolutely riveting when intelligible people opinionate from either side. Plus, my security consulting endeavors and Google hacking escapades have opened my eyes to more avenues of piracy than are readily apparent to most. As such, to effectively end online piracy, I see that FAR more will have to be done than simply shutting down file-sharing sites. I fear that the most significant changes will be brought forth by legislation, and it WILL happen one day if the piracy war continues as it has thus far. To give you a small and scary sampling of what obliterating online piracy might mean for the Internet, I present the following points for your consideration: 1 - File-sharing site censorship: Put simply, a complete restructuring and lock-down of file-sharing sites would have to occur for them to even exist. And though it could work just fine in theory, it couldn't work without handing over a certain amount of freedom and convenience. Every file uploaded to a file-sharing site would have to somehow be guaranteed to either not be copyrighted, or the uploader would have to provide credentials which, under certain guidelines/legislation, show that they can share what they're sharing -- most likely with an intended number of receivers who might also have to provide proper access credentials. As it currently stands, it's FAR too easy to fly in under the radar of current file-sharing sites that try to auto-detect copyrighted files. Gone would be the days of file-name obfuscation and password-protected 7-zip files. Ultimately, even if file-sharing sites weren't as locked down as this scenario suggests, it's quite clear that the DMCA system is broken. Yes, even sites like Rapidshare and Hotfile -- who react promptly to DMCA requests -- are still slam-PACKED with copyrighted files that are being furiously downloaded this very second by paying members who can afford $10 a month for a super-fast and convenient way to download copious amounts of copyrighted movies, music, games, and more. 2 - Government-mandated deep packet inspection: Though it wouldn't matter where you downloaded from, deep packet inspection would massively reduce piracy from torrents, P2P, newsgroups, IRC, and everywhere else. Naturally, it would be easy to circumnavigate this type of thing with a combination of file-name obfuscation (changing the name of a file to something unrelated) and password-protected compressed files, but that simply brings us to the next point... 3 - Tiered Internet access and data plans: Do you have a cell phone with a data plan? Imagine if you had to follow a similar plan with your home ISP. Even worse, what if ALL Internet access was bound by a pay-as-you-go plan? That may sound ridiculous, but after some of the generalizations suggested in SOPA and PIPA, it sounds about par for the course! I could also see an Internet restricted by a type of certification process, whereby a Web site must undergo an inspection to be allowed onto the "freely accessible" Internet -- a tier that you could access without getting charged. And if a site that was allowed access failed to abide by the rules after being approved, then the site would be removed and the owner (and possibly even the hosting company) would be severely reprimanded. Again, this all may sound ridiculous, but I'm shooting for some worst-case scenario stuff here to spark debate. 4 - Search engine censorship: If you want to see to the death of online piracy, then you must also consider nixing all the paths that lead one to pirated content. Yes, that means Google, Bing, and every other type of search engine would have to be censored and severely crippled so as to not return results leading one to downloadable copyrighted content they don't intend on paying for. For someone like me who is absolutely in love with search, I can't imagine a worse fate than this since it would surely mean severely lacking search results on some level. Does that all sound crazy to you? Some of it does to me, but I have no doubt that all of the above has been brought to the table as a serious consideration by copyright holders and/or the government at some point. The reason I have no doubt about that is primarily due to China. Just have a look at the details of Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China and marinate on all of that for a bit. Now, why am I even bothering to write an article about this? What's the point? Well, my point is to show that an Internet without at least some amount of piracy is an Internet that lacks some portion of the freedom it currently enjoys: the more piracy is obliterated, the more locked-down the Internet will become. Or so that's how I see it, at least. The fight against piracy is a full-on war in the eyes of copyright holders, and in war, there are always casualties. Unfortunately, I think the casualties would come in the form of Internet freedom. And now that I have you feeling like the world as you know it is going to end (it is 2012, after all... *wink, wink* *nudge, nudge*), there is a scenario that very well might play out which I would love to see happen: the influential seats of government and big money corporations being turned over to intelligible, competent Internet lovers who can come to reasonable/logical conclusions. I'm talking about people who use Reddit, understand what a meme is, make usage of Google's advanced search operators, and -- most importantly -- know when legislation is presented that seeks to censor or threaten the freedom of the Internet. Hopefully, this would happen long before the Internet was stripped of said freedom. So, am I saying that online piracy is necessary? Well, no, but if the Internet is to remain free, then accepting that piracy is going to *always* happen in *some* part is something that's going to have to be done by copyright holders who are seeking legislation as an action to prevent it. To close, I'd like to note that I understand there are PLENTY of loopholes present and counterpoints to be made to much of what I've said above, but it would take a novel to accurately portray the entirety of my opinions and observations on this matter. Not only that, but statistically speaking, only a fraction of you have read this far anyway (this article is just shy of 1500 words -- a miracle for most to read through these days) -- and besides, I want to see what you all think based on what I've said thus far. I want to see some REAL discussion happen on this matter. Also, I understand that the Internet is a global network and not all of the points listed above pertain to all governments, but the battle of piracy extends well beyond the borders of the U.S. government, so discussion is relevant on the topic no matter where you're reading from. And now, I turn it over to you! Do you even care about piracy or think that it has the power to cripple the Internet? If you do care about the topic of piracy, then what suggestions would you like to offer that you think would make a difference to those seeking to collect from its supposed damages? Get crazy in the comments below! -Stephen Chapman
SEO Whistleblower
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Topics: Enterprise Software, Piracy, Security

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  • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

    As a Chinese myself I could only watch with mixed feelings...
    • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

      I can understand. The problem with this issue, like so many others is that the US GOVERNMENT DOES NOT CARE ABOUT PIRACY. What they care about is privacy. If you look at a large number of the laws passed by congress and the American public over the last 10 years they were all under the guise of terrorism. But what was really going on was deathblows to the privacy and security of the American public. This is one more nail in the coffin and if passed will evolve into a total loss of whatever privacy is left on the Internet. All under the guise of "stopping piracy". It's a joke. Any true criminal endeavor is already running on private wireless and satellite uplink networks with encrypted data flows not privy to prying eyes. I sell those products. I know.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @dbeecher@... Actually, the US government doesn't give 2 cents about privacy and the knowingly and willingly invade people's privacy without a second thought constantly. What they do care about is money. When you have the record and movie industries lining the pockets of lobbyists and politicians from here to hell, you know this will eventually come to pass. As time goes on I am becoming more and more disgusted with America. This is coming from a once proud Marine who lived and breathed the red, white and blue. What we are becoming is a disgrace to everything that we once stood for and what made this the greatest nation on the planet.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        ExploreMN, dbeecher is saying the same thing, he just meant they care about TAKING away our privacy. And I agree with everything you say.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @dbeecher@... Oooooo, and so do we now.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @dbeecher@... "I sell those products. I know " Ha! Rockin' ;o)
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        He who has the information has the power. Probably 90% of the people accessing Internet profit from "THE ON-LINE PIRACY", and by that the are jeopardizing the profits of a select few who need more money to renew their luxury yachts, cars and new castles. THAT is why "the on-line piracy" is such a crime. Privacy? Are there any people in this world who are stupid enough to believe there still exists privacy? Everything is known about ALL of us.
        All the important information on EVERYONE (B-day, personal Identification code, Address, phone number, when with whom and how long you spoke on your phone, when and what you bought)is at the fingertips of the ones that control us. Who are you kidding with privacy? Exactly what and exactly in what second you wrote on your computer is accessible to the one that wants to have that information.
        The goal is to have every citizen under control, to make them spend all their money on crap they don't need and keep them going in the direction set by the controller. It is all that simple.
        You think you can stop the people whom you gave the power and control over your life to make whatever they want? Good joke!
    • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

      What will end up happening will be privately owned dns servers that are not tied into the root servers.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @rparker009 In other words, you think we will go back to something like the old BBS servers of the dial-up era?
      • Privately-owned DNS server

        There already ARE privately-owned DNS servers that aren't tied into the the "root servers"
    • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

      @cym104 No the internet couldn't end because of that:
  • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

  • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

    Wrong assumptions everywhere.

    First of all: shutting down Megupload & co didn't kill online piracy. They were one way to pirate content - and now that they're gone, people will simply turn to other, more subtle technologies to pirate content. History repeat itself again now like how many times? 5-6? Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, etc. And now Megaupload. They all have been shut down once - and piracy didn't go away. Neither will it now.

    Also, it's not really about killing online piracy. It's about applying American law to all the world and serving the interests of a very few American media conglomerates. For ex. in large parts of the world copying copyrighted conent is legal and allowed as long as you do not profit from that under the fair use clause - therefore downloading movies, songs, etc. is perfectly legal in these jurisdictions. Also there's practically nothing done to prevent piracy of works of independent authors - it's all about preventing piracy of the few works of a few American studios, record labels, etc. Therefore even the latter could be stopped from like tomorrow on, piracy still wouldn't be dead.

    • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

      @ff2 I agree, to a degree. In the case of sites like Megaupload, they are making money out of knowingly distributing copyrighted content, that is clearly wrong.

      On the other hand, where I live, it is legal to give away "a reasonable number of copies" of a copyrighted work, as long as I don't break any copyprotection in order to do so. The government defines "a reasonable number of copies" as up to 10 (which includes copies for the car, transfer to other media (E.g. CD ripping) or giving away to friends.

      Torrenting is a grey area, because I cannot guarantee that less than 10 people will join my feed and download the track - and if you are downloading on a torrent, you are also uploading. Fine for open source and non-copyright works, but illegal for copyrighted work, once more than 10 people join.

      Likewise, if I set up an FTP server with copyrighted works on it (or put copyrighted files onto Dropbox) and hand out a link / username and password to up to 10 people, that is not a problem. If I allow anonymous access to the FTP server or post the DB link on an open forum, then it is illegal. If I charge people for the username and password, that is illegal, if I put it on a site and get advertising revnue from people viewing/downloading it, that is illegal.

      If these acts are illegal, then I can expect the law to come a knocking on my door and for sites clearly set up to make a profit from distributing copyrighted material, I would expect either the copyright holders to sue them or for the authorities to take action against them (depending on the local laws).

      I find it obnoxious, that America thinks it can ride rough-shod over other jurisdictions, applying their own rules and ignoring local due process.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        Regarding torrents. Would you still be liable since they are only getting parts of the entire material from you?
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @wright_is - yeah, it was particularly obnoxious when we ran rough-shod over other jurisdictions, rebuilding them after a war we didn't start, and then patrolled the world so places like S. Korea could get rich undercutting American producers. We should have refrained from being obnoxious and let the N. Koreans have them, or refrained from being obnoxious and let the Germans and Japanese continue their atrocities, or refrained from being obnoxious and let the Soviet Union keep almost half the world enslaved in communism.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @wright_is : That "I find it obnoxious, that America thinks it can ride rough-shod" would be better phrased as "I find it obnoxious, that a small number of multinational media conglomerates using their puppet American politicians think they can ride rough-shod" - most informed Americans (samefully, too few exist) do not agree with their own government on these sorts of issues. But the MPAA and RIAA are no longer, and have not been for a long time, truly American organizations any more then Budweiser is still an American beer.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @Ryu Yes, it is the conglomorats and their government / state shills. But it is the idea that American law is somehow a higher law than local law, where "crimes" are committed.

        @wildwood Yes, you are still liable, even if they are only getting parts of the whole from you.

        @hiragm We are talking about 2 different things here. What America did then, at the request of the majority of nations is one thing, upholding freedom and human rights, is one thing.

        Going into democratic countries and telling them their laws are too lax, therefore US law applies is something else.

        The Patriot Act is even worse, forcing US companies working abroad to break the law and leaving their customers open to prosecution! This has nothing to do with protecting freedom, or even American ideals.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        I know one of the InBev main board directors personally, and he's an extremely moral person, so Bud at least is in safe hands.
        I'd like to see the US attempt to shut down sites in a number of foreign countries - it reduces the Nation to a Mafioso operation, attempting to force "protection" money on the rest of the world. It might actually improve the quality of the web by removing some of the more nonsensical American input from circulation.
      • RE: The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it

        @wright_is - Torrenting is not a "grey area." It is no different from Rapidshare, megaupload, pirate bay, etc. ALL of these sites are [KNOWINGLY] profiting from illegal uploads and downloads.

        And, as I pointed out in another post, we can tell you are LYING because you never say "WHERE" you live, and yet you CLAIM that "where you live, you are allowed to give away 10 copies of copyrighted material." If so, then you should not be ashamed to tell us 'where' you live - else you are lying, and making up stuff - because you are afraid we can look up the laws in your area and prove you wrong.