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.
- The death of online piracy: the end of the Internet as we know it
- The Pirate Party: Justice for legitimate ex-users of Megaupload
- Closing Megaupload unlikely to even slow piracy down
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.