Note To Gloating Copyright Holders: Taking Down A Single Source Of Content Doesn't Stop Unauthorized Sharing

from the keep-trying dept

We've pointed out in the past how silly it is for the entertainment industry to declare a significant blow against "piracy" every time they take down a single source of unauthorized content. Once some content is available online, it is infinitely available. A single copy quickly is made available everywhere. Shutting down a single source isn't just less than a significant blow, it's meaningless. Defenders of the strategy will note two things. They'll say that, first, the copyright holders have every right to (and should) defend their copyright and, second, that by taking down some of these sites, it acts as some kind of hindrance, since it makes it a little bit harder for others to set up such a site (the so-called "speed bump" analogy). While it is true that the copyright holders have the right to try to shut down anyone making their content available -- at some point, as any business should, they should be doing a cost-benefit analysis of the process. If the cost is high and the benefit is nil, it should make you question the business strategy. As for the second point, it's simply wrong. Every time the industry has shut down a site, a dozen others, often further underground, harder to find and harder to shut down, pop up. And each time that happens, it becomes even more difficult for the copyright holders to work with these sites to create business models that benefit everyone.

It seems like the latest industry to learn this lesson is going to be the porn industry. Despite reports that have shown how the porn industry has used unauthorized file sharing to its advantage, it appears that some in the industry have gotten it into their heads that they need to stop unauthorized downloads. Again, they have every right to do so -- but that doesn't mean it's good for business. The folks behind this push are now gloating over their first success, shutting down a single site that was apparently popular for sharing unauthorized porn content. Of course, the net result is unlikely to make any difference. The content is all still out there at many other sites, and it won't take long for all the users of the closed site to move on and find these new sites. Those new sites will be harder to find and harder to shut down and all it will do is waste a lot of time and effort from the folks angry about those sites. Instead of doing all that work for no actual benefit, why not work on better business models where they don't need to worry about unauthorized use (and, even where unauthorized sharing can be seen as an asset in helping to promote the content)?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 10:11am

    You remark on this a lot, but I'm not convinced its entirely wasted effort. If copyright holders had never gone after Napster it would by this time be as easy or easier to use than iTunes, and with better product in the form of portable DRM free files.

    Instead it can take quite a bit of work to find the song, movie, or software you are looking for illegally. The 'underground' aspect works against p2p's appeal for end users. This is why iTunes works so well. If it were just as easy to get better files for less money from file sharing networks, more people would use the file sharing networks.

    So by forcing peer to peer networks farther and farther underground they are making it possible for iTunes and the like to do some pretty good business. Much better business than if peer to peer had been left alone.

    Note that I'm only arguing whether or not the industries efforts against file sharers are effective. I'm not arguing whether or not those efforts are a good idea. It may very well be that giving the music away via Napster as a promotional vehicle for other services would have been the best business decision and brought more money to the industry than iTunes and it's ilk. But to say that in the current climate efforts against file sharers is wasted is a stretch.

     

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    Nick (profile), Sep 18th, 2007 @ 10:30am

    re: Joel

    Apple did not go after Napster so that it could offer iTMS. Apple just happened to have the right strategy at the right time. If the Napster of 1999 was still around today (because the music industry just ignored it, looked at it as a promotion tool) there is no way to predict at all what the music distribution landscape would look like today.

    Although, now I am tempted to take some guesses as to what would have happened: the RIAA would have saves a lot of money and effort suing customers, music fans would have more reason to go out to shows which stimulates the economy, there would be more small business (if look at a working performer as a small business), the market place for music would be more competitive since it would be easier for good acts to get popular. But, the industry would not let their business model die so the are fighting it with the power they have left.

    This analogy might not translate so soothly to the porn industry since creating value with live performances might be illegal.

     

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    Michael Long, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 10:32am

    Harder to find...

    You said it twice, and missed the point both times. To quote, "Those new sites will be harder to find and harder to shut down..."

    You see, if the new sites are that much harder to find, they they're harder to find FOR EVERYONE.

    Like when Macrovision was added to help prevent VHS tape copying, the idea wasn't to stop ALL unauthorized copying, but simply to raise the bar and reduce "casual" copying. Similarly, making sites harder to find raises the "hassle" factor of finding and obtaining illegal content.

    Every time a site gets shut down, the hundreds or thousands of people who frequented that site now have to seek out an alternative. At which point some of those people are going to just say screw it and head off to Blockbuster or Target.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 10:36am

    Re: Harder to find...

    At which point some of those people are going to just say screw it and head off to Blockbuster or Target.
    Blockbuster and Target carry porn?

     

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    dataGuy (profile), Sep 18th, 2007 @ 10:48am

    Re: Harder to find...

    To make a slightly different point, these two sentences seem to contradict one another when place together:

    "...it won't take long for all the users of the closed site to move on and find these new sites. Those new sites will be harder to find and harder to shut down..."

     

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    ehrichweiss, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Harder to find...

    The sites can be harder to find for a couple of reasons, of which only one will affect whether individuals can find it: making it obscure.

    If the site were to use, say, IP blocking like PeerGuardian the MAFIAA's wouldn't think it existed unless they visited from a non-corporate owned IP.

    If the site used word of mouth to spread the news it was open, the MAFIAA's wouldn't know it existed unless coincidence dropped it in their laps. But if the site then uses the IP blocking, that could become a moot point.

    Many sites that I'm aware of use "newbie rooms" which is a kind of a sandbox where a newbie is expected to upload something to share, tell how they found out about the site and such.

    But the biggest worry is not that they go more underground but play more publicly and in-your-face, like the pirate bay.

    The same was said each time a pirate BBS(if you can remember those) was busted back in the day and what happened? Some went underground but there was no problem finding them if you were in the "friends and family" plan.

     

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    lilyofthevalley, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 12:34pm

    Still trying to figure one thing out...

    the promotional argument really only goes so far. With major brands/talent, perhaps.

    It's one thing to allow a freebie (whether music or vid) or two to the masses for promotion. You can budget that cost loss or "advertising" to a degree. It's another thing to have third parties decide that despite TOSs and EULAs they agreed to when they acquired said file (someone, somewhere had to have gotten it legally unless there's way more cracking going on than anyone is admitting to) that they will redistribute it anyway.

    To me, every time I keep seeing or hearing the argument that file sharing is ultimately good for business, I want to ask...whose business? The creators of that content or the site they're getting the stolen content from that most likely has ads or is really a phishing/whatever site using the content to lure you in?

    Rarely do I ever see even the hint of the possibility that once someone illegally acquires a file of any given type that so long as that avenue to get it exists, if they like what they got, they'll just keep going back to where they got it "for free"...not that they'll take the time (esp if any id on the file like a watermark on the beginning or tail end of the vid was cut off--a popular piracy method) to try to find the source so they can actually plunk down some cash there.

    Sure, if you're downloading the latest 50 cent vid, it's usually pretty obvious who the creator was, and thus not so hard to go find some other 50 cent vid to pay for if you wanted to. However, with newer bands or a heck of a lot of adult material (porn or otherwise), unless you see an actor/ress that you know only works for one company (fairly rare), one would be hard pressed to track that material down even if they wanted to pay for it.

    So unless the entire vid has a watermark across the middle advertising the company who made it, or the song has a dull droning voice underlying the music stating the name of the band and if they are under a label over and over again during the song (sooo not likely in either case), how exactly does this work as promotional material again?

    Contrary to popular belief, most adult industries are very small businesses, run by a sole proprietor or a handful of folks, with indy contracted talent as the norm. Their profit margins are slim if at all, given how inundated the world and the web have become with folks who think porn is easy money, as well as the new cropping of amatuers who live in blissful ignorance of laws regulating adult content who are more than happy to have their moment or twelve of naughty net time for free because a friend had a camera at a party.

    This whole thing makes me think about unpaid interns. Because so many people want the paid positions, they often will take the unpaid internship to work up the ladder. But at some point, you lose out because there are so many other people willing to do exactly what you did, and there's only so many managers needed to manage the interns.

    I don't have a problem with people tranferring a file to any of their own personal compatible systems or even sharing in the sense of enjoying it in the company of others. But to me, file sharing of the "you knew better but you downloaded it anyway" type will just kill off good content in the long run because people just won't be able to turn a profit, and they'll do something else so they can eat and have a roof over their head.

    And as far as the concept of porn jumping on the bandwagon for profit sharing, most social networking sites don't even allow porn, let alone porn advertisement unless it's one specific to adult themes. And again, the small businesses suffer the most because they can't afford the time to browse file sharing sites endlessly for their own content.

    One case in point related to this: I know a fella who had a messy foot fetish site. He was a one man shop who hired independant models on a per gig basis. A blogger decided to lift as much of his content (and others) as he could and post it on his blog site for free. (Yes, the blog had tons of pay-per-click and webmaster cash program ads.) Pretty soon word got around, and my friend tried to get the content taken off. No go. He even looked into getting a lawyer, but it would have been cost prohibitive since the site had all the whois info hidden. Then his clients started complaining why they had to pay for the content when they could get it for free on the blog. He tried to explain that the guy was stealing it, but they didn't seem to understand where this was going to head. Then the subscription cancellations started rolling in. Then he couldn't pay for the models or other costs related anymore, and he had to shut his site down.

    So again...who really benefits from this?

     

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  8.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 12:41pm

    So again...who really benefits from this?

    People who have foot fetishs?

    Mike, are you pushing for the porn industry to come up with new ways of making money? What, building up their live performance revenue? Maybe they could do endorsements for hotdogs, caves, rockets. Works for me.

     

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    lilyofthevalley, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 12:52pm

    *groan*

    Random Thoughts: So what you're saying is that no one should go into the adult industry unless they don't want to make a living at it?

    Let's assume you have a job that involves the manufacturing of a product. Doesn't matter whether you like the job or not. One day you come to work, and the boss is firing everyone because whatever your company's product is has been stolen by a third party and given away for free so many times the insurance won't cover it anymore. Yeah, there's some product that actually got legitmately sold, but it eventually couldn't pay the bills. Eventually there will be no money to make said product, so the company goes out of business--which is where you are, at mass layoff day--and not because some exec is getting a golden parachute deal for cutting costs.

    Most hard goods (product) wear out in time, so you can try to the "hey if I want to resell my DVD or troll doll, I can so do that" argument, but digital files, unless they get corrupted or lost in a hardware fry are around pretty much forever unless you delete them.

     

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    Duh?, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 1:29pm

    I really don't think btjunkie.org is all that hard to find?!?

     

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  11.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 1:32pm

    Lily, I was asking a question. For your info, Mike (if he has the time) will respond with the following:

    1. Its not stealing, because the owner still has their copy, but thats not really the point, but its not stealing.
    2. Once its on the Internet, it can't be stopped, because you only have to get 1 copy out there and it will be widely available.
    3. I don't advocate the download of files that violate copyright, but the companies just have to find new ways to support their business, new ways that open up the marketplace that will bring them greater revenue.

     

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    RandomThoughts, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 1:36pm

    Lilly, although Mike will write it better and be a bit more snippy about it.

    And as for your question, isn't that a double negative?

     

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    EconomicObservations, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 1:38pm

    Good thing people aren't out there having sex without getting paid! That would undermine the entire business model of paying to watch other people being paid to have sex.

    I am glad we cleared up that threat to the economy.

     

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  14.  
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    Dewy, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 5:22pm

    Digital format stretches the ancient concept of theft. Do I steal the fire off your cigarette when I use it to light mine? Digital copies are often as good as the original, and without proper protection will be copied.

    The guy with the website had options... like banning the user. Sure he lost a "customer" and theoretically the content that was distributed was no longer under his control. But banning the user would complicate the further "theft" and deterred other customers from similar unethical action. Also the owner of the site needs to look into better methods of accessing his material. Maybe only allowing the download of lower quality samples, while providing access to the highest quality as a view only.

    Again, this is a new frontier, this digital domain... any venture for cash is at risk of unknown pitfalls. But with the ever expanding base of users the internet has, and the ever increasing ability of the users and their computers... I'd say limiting the open end of the equation is like bailing the Titanic by hand.

    You keep trying that, I'll look for other options. Mike is looking for those options and I appreciate his insight.

     

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    barrenwaste, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 9:43am

    RE: Everybody

    *Postulation*

    SOME free content is good for a business. The problem is you can get ALL the newest movies, music, apps, and games anywhere from twenty four hours to a week after it's release. In some cases you can even get it before it's official release date. That said, the way businesses are going about it is the very definition of insanity (performing the same actions repeatedly while expecting different results). They have to change thier tactics or continue to fail miserably, but they cannot give up the fight without going out of business. What that means for us is that the industry standards will fall, and the quality and quantity of new products will drop exponentially.

    *Collaborative Statements*

    1) Offering free goods and services has been proven to be a good draw for potential and repeat customers.

    2) Free goods and services are just that, free. In of themselves they generate no revenue for the business, and in most cases, cost them money in distribution, stock, and advertising fees.

    3) When all, or most, products a business offers can be aquired for free, it ceases to generate the required revenue to continue as a business.

    4) The entire point of a business is to generate wealth for it's self, owners, and employees.

    5) When an industry no longer generates revenue, the qualitative and quantitative growth stops, and in the case of quantity, regresses.

    6) A single person cannot consume enough free product to hurt an industry.

    7) When product is offered free to the populace, a large part of the target demographic who have access, and who do not already have enough of the product, will take part in said offer. *Wow, that's quite the run-on sentence*

    8) The internet offers access to the overwhelming majority of the populace with intrest in free digital product.

    9) The occurance of internet copyright infringements and piracy has increased in volume.

    10) The businesses with intrest in suppressing internet copyright infringements and piracy attempt to do so by safeguards on digital product and through legal action.

    11) Due to the nature of digital product, the internet, and the existence of privacy and national laws, preventitive and punative theft protection is, at best, extremely difficult.

    *Editorial*

    Unfortunately I have no answers on how to solve the problems here. I, like most people, like free product. I also think that the businesses involved with the problem charge way to much for thier products. On the other hand, as long as free product is available, why pay anything at all? Of course, nobody paying anything means very few will be intrested in spending the time, effort, and cash needed to make new, good quality, products. Personally, I don't think there is an answer here that will be acceptable to either side. As long as there are things out there to gain, we, as people, are going to continue to find the easiest and cheapest way to gain them.

     

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  16.  
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    Hopeless Charm, Sep 21st, 2007 @ 6:32pm

    Using Guns to kill Bugs

    Sorry for that visual but your underlying theme is well taken. Though it's against the law to run red lights, we don't see tens of thousands of police hired to enforce that do we ? It wouldn't make economic (or common) sense. The same silliness applies to the entertainment industry gestapo/criminal-enterprise (RICO should be used against them), they're trying to use automatic machine guns to kill bugs. It's tragically comical.

     

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