Piracy Is Like Terrorism?

from the well,-not-exactly dept

Tom Lee (no relation) has a fascinating post comparing the entertainment industry's efforts to fight online piracy with the US government's attempts to disrupt terrorist planning on the Internet. I should hasten to make clear that Tom's not saying that piracy's as bad as terrorism, or anything like that, but rather he's pointing to some striking parallels between the organization of the two types of communities online. He links to a wonderful article that we linked to a few years ago that describes the "topsites" that are the source of most of the pirated material online. Tom notes that in both piracy and terrorist networks consist of "an ecosystem of poseurs, parasites and a very few elite operators who can provide the original content that powers the scene. These individuals arrange and rearrange themselves into groups that compete for prestige." There are a few interesting lessons to be drawn from the analogy. Apparently, the tactics the government has been using against these sites, "Monitoring, poisoning, honeypots, and takedowns," are strikingly similar to the methods the recording industry has used against file sharers, and the efforts have been similarly limited. Of course, the big difference is that terrorism is a much more serious crime than piracy, so it's worth expending more resources to hamper it even if the impact is limited. But in both cases, the ultimate solution will only come when we figure out how to solve the more fundamental underlying causes that are fueling the online activity. In the case of the piracy, that will mean finding business models that can fairly compensate artists without treating customers like criminals. In the case of terrorism, it means figuring out how to change conditions in the Middle East so that it's no longer such a breeding ground for terrorists. Until those more fundamental problems are dealt with, no amount of online policing is going to stop the illicit activities.

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Comments on “Piracy Is Like Terrorism?”

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Dan says:

“an ecosystem of poseurs, parasites and a very few elite operators who can provide the original content that powers the scene. These individuals arrange and rearrange themselves into groups that compete for prestige.”

Wait a sec…, what’s that sound like? I know, the government! Groups of people constantly competing for prestige! Chock full of posers! THE GOVERNMENT IS TERRORISM!! PANIC!!

zcat says:

“Of course, the big difference is that terrorism is a much more serious crime than piracy”

Are you sure?

Over the last ten years about 3,000 people died in America due to terrorist attacks. Easily 60 times as many people have died from drunk-driving, 120 times as many by suicide, and more than 2000 times as many people died due to heart disease (excluding smokers). That’s roughly 6,000,000 million deaths almost all due to fast-food and lack of exercise. Where’s the war on burgers ffs?

Terrorism is such a tiny, insignificant problem compared to almost everything else. Monetary losses due to illegal copying, even by the most conservative estimates, almost certainly outweigh monetary losses due to terrorism. I wouldn’t be much surprised if there were more than 3000 deaths attributable to illegal copying over the last ten years too.

And piracy at sea is still a very real problem too, with estimated worldwide losses of US $13 to $16 billion per year according to wikipedia. There’s no mention of the number of lives lots, but I expect it vastly outnumbers the lives lost due to terrorism.

Reed says:

War was declared

Until the government actually steps up and declares war against piracy (and I can already see politicians licking their lips)I don’t think you can compare the two.

As far as Internet tactics, the two do share some similarities. Although it is clear that one is still a private crusade and the other a government endorsed action.

Amy (user link) says:

“In the case of terrorism, it means figuring out how to change conditions in the Middle East so that it’s no longer such a breeding ground for terrorists.”

Am I the only one concerned that this sentence implies we assume *all* terrorists, or even *most*, come out of the middle east? Has anyone considered that prejudices like this are part of the reason there is as much of a problem as there is? Right now, that just happens to be the source of problems we’re *aware* of. We’re never going to “solve” terrorism as long as we continue to make stupid assumptions like that, as such assumptions only alienate the people who have the potential to become terrorists. Changing our attitude won’t completely remove the problem, but it will give less ammunition and motivation, and can even reduce the problem given enough time. Granted with how much stupidity there has been on both sides, the amount of time needed to repair the current damage is going to be a lot.

On the subject of Bible Thumpers, because it’s come up in comments, I’d just like to say that I would like them to go away too. Not because I don’t believe they’re allowed to follow whatever beliefs they want, but because I feel that a person’s right to believe whatever they want ends the moment they start taking that right away from others. If they didn’t try so hard to force their beliefs upon others by way of forcefully preaching, guilt tripping in return for the “help” their beliefs claim are supposed to be given without strings attached, and by trying to get laws passed that take away rights from people simply because those rights conflict with the Bible Thumpers’ beliefs, I wouldn’t have a problem with them. In fact, even though I consider myself agnostic, I have the highest respect for those people who can follow their beliefs in a non-hypocritical and non-invasive manner. For example, those who help others simple because it’s the right thing to do, who only tell others about their beliefs if asked or otherwise been indicated of a curiosity or interest, and those who don’t feel the need to wear their beliefs on their sleeve to show everyone else how much better they are.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Re:

OK streaker – go on enlighten us

2 line answers including “what an islamist thing to say” aren’t exactly convincing. Incidentally that had me and my colleagues pissing ourselves laughing at your ignorance – like Islam advocates assasination, genius

On the whole I thing America’s risk from terrorism would probably be reduced somewhat if you would only remove the words “fuck you” from your foreign policy

On the subject of terrorism vs piracy – maybe now they hate you for your copyrights? ;0)

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:


There seems to be a certain glibness with which the word “terrorism” is thrown around. What do you mean by “terrorism”? Do you mean “hurting and killing people”? If so, why not say so? Do you mean “hurting and killing people on a mass scale”? Say that, then. It’s already a bad enough crime to commit, why do you need a new word?

The trouble with the word “terrorism” is that it’s been (mis)applied at the slightest excuse–like when an attack on a military target in Iraq is considered a “terrorist” attack. What’s “terrorist” about a military attack? Is it simply that it was carried out in a guerrilla fashion?

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

About 2 Years ago ..

I saw a video on some site (I WISH i could remember which one).
It was a fake little video with a kid at his computer and the words “Download?” and 2 buttons “Yes” and “No”.
The instant he clicked yes there was a knock at the door, his dad downstairs answered it, and there were monster looking people at the door with sub machine guns, and they gunned him down with what must have been a hundred bullets.
They then slit some of his family’s throats and did other such gorey acts.
It was a kind of funny play on the tactics of the RIAA and how they treat people. Very B rate quality but still got its point across. Had all the gore been more realistic instead of so fake, it might not have been as funny.

But yah, wish I could remember where I saw it. If I was at my house right now I’d search for it and link it. Maybe I will later when I am home .. if I remember.

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