The Right Way To Stop Piracy

from the look-at-the-evidence dept

Read the new report from The Copia Institute,
The Carrot Or The Stick: Innovation vs. Anti-Piracy Enforcement »

Ever since the internet became a place where copyright infringement was rampant, we’ve seen the same basic playbook from the legacy entertainment industry: pass stricter anti-piracy laws. In the 30 years predating the big fight over SOPA in 2011-2012, the US had passed 15 separate anti-piracy laws. Countries around the globe (often under pressure from the US) have passed increasingly more draconian copyright laws designed to “stop piracy.” And, when they can’t pass laws directly, they resort to international trade agreements, like the TPP, whereby trade negotiators (who are directly influenced by the legacy entertainment industry) negotiate deals in back rooms that require stricter anti-piracy laws. And none of it works. Sure, when a new law first goes into effect there may be an initial, short-term decrease in piracy rates, but it doesn’t last for more than a few months, as people quickly go back to finding ways to access the content they want.

So how about a different approach? One that actually does work. One that has been shown, time and time again, to actually reduce piracy rates? Enabling more innovation and allowing more services to legally deliver what consumers want.

The story in Sweden is somewhat famous. Sweden was home to the Pirate Bay and had sky high piracy rates. And then Spotify — a company also born in Sweden — launched at home. And piracy rates fell off a cliff. But only for music. Piracy for other products such as TV and movies remained high. Under pressure from the US, Sweden passed a strict anti-piracy law, IPRED. And, when it went into effect, there was a notable decline in piracy rates… but, within months, those rates rebounded to where they had been before, as people quickly figured out new ways to do what they were doing before. And then Netflix launched in Sweden. And piracy rates for TV and movies dropped.

This story made us wonder. So, over at the Copia Institute, we’ve been digging into similar situations around the globe, and this morning we’re releasing our latest report: The Carrot or the Stick, in which we compare attempts to ratchet up anti-piracy enforcement against simply enabling more innovation, and the impact both have had on piracy rates in a bunch of different countries. Over and over again, we find the same basic story: anti-piracy laws have little to no long-term impact on piracy. Any impact is, at best, short term. However, when innovative services are allowed to thrive, and when there’s real innovation, the public is more than willing to sign up in droves, often leaving their pirating ways behind.

Thus, if the entertainment industry is truly serious about decreasing piracy, why are they so resistant to the facts? Why do they fight tooth and nail against these services, demanding rates that are sure to bankrupt them, or putting ridiculous restrictions on them that limit their value to users? Why do they demand DRM or limit selection? It’s difficult to make sense of this strategy.

And, yes, I know that some will claim that the two things (anti-piracy laws and innovation) go hand-in-hand — and that the anti-piracy laws are necessary in order to make it possible for authorized services to thrive. Once again, however, our research showed that does not appear to be the case at all. In most countries we studied, the number of authorized services tended to rapidly expand before the introduction of new anti-piracy laws. And, in fact, sometimes we saw the number of services decline after these laws were in place, and after the “winners” in the market had already been established. In other words, entrepreneurs and users of these services saw no reason to wait for these laws, and the laws themselves don’t appear to have done much to encourage more innovation in the field.

You can check out the full report over at the Copia site. Oh, and as a reminder, the White House’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator is still asking for feedback on how to best use the federal government’s resources on this issue. One would hope that learning what’s in this new report would be helpful to him in crafting his new plan.

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Comments on “The Right Way To Stop Piracy”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I can tell you why....

More a case that innovative services allow artists to bypass their control and ability to profit from the work of others. Also the fact that Internet services do NOT require editorial control over what is published is also so alien to their way of thought that they fight it instinctively.

Anonymous Coward says:

Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

Or the offering of goods through existing channels a “carrot”?

You chose a pointless either/or when the real problem is that numbers of consumers aren’t paying yet can enjoy the products.

@ “demanding rates that are sure to bankrupt them” — Simply means that consumers would rather have all for free. You can’t compete with free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You don't understand how markets work in reality.

NOBODY understands how markets work in reality, and the first ones to admit it are the economists.

We are in a transitional phase where the benefits of scale are eroding due to increasing transportation costs, and decreasing engineering and tooling costs. This is bad for established companies, particularly those with lower barrier to entry like the recording industry.

They are trying to compensate in a number of ways. Most of it boils down to trying to morph the law into a formalized aristocracy. This applies particularly to I.P.

Of course professional economists are typically employed by large organizations that leverage scale. Which is why they subscribe to the views of their patrons however deprecated and backwards they are. So for the moment, Econ is a political science, that proposes itself to be a statistical science.

People will be more free when the math starts being important again. There are a few schools moving in that direction, but they aren’t the ones you’d think.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re: You don't understand how markets work in reality.

Thank you, I’m glad to see someone admitting this. Sometimes the way the schools of economics are viewed by their subscribers seems cult-like to me. What we need is an economics theory that accurately describes the world in which we live today, not one that creates social divisions by appealing to people’s personal prejudices. /End rant.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

You were fast in twisting the facts to your delusional world eh?

Read the article again, sloooooowly. It says pretty clearly (unless you can’t understand English and it seems you can’t) that when services started offering stuff people want for an affordable price and in an easy interface they decided to pay for those services even though they could still have everything for free.

So, dear mentally handicapped troll, these services are CLEARLY competing with free. But you won’t let the FACTS get to you, right, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

You can’t compete with free

Go and talk to authors like Cory Doctorow, or Eric Flint and friends from Baen Books about how much impact making free ebooks available have on their sales of books. They compete successfully with the free copies that they have made available, or allowed to be made available.

Automatic Grammatizator says:

Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

Just wanted you to know that I’m not reporting you because you didn’t go out of your way to insult anyone this time. Your views are still twisted, but eh, progress is progress. We’ll make a decent human being out of you yet.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

You can’t compete with free.

You can.

I could get all my music for free, whether through torrents, or ripping from Youtube or other sources.

Yet I’ve been paying $10 a month for Spotify for at least 2, if not 3 years now. I actually can’t remember the last time I torrented music, and I’ve only ripped something from Youtube once or twice in the last year – and only because it wasn’t on Spotify, and I’d have to actually spend time searching for where the things are on my hard drive.

Movies or TV? Similar story. I pay for Netflix, and am considering also getting Amazon Prime Video, and my personal piracy rate has dropped dramatically since I started on Netflix – it’s just easier. On the other hand, I’ll admit that I have torrented more often for video than music – again, it’s strictly because the content isn’t available in any convenient form for a reasonable price. I won’t pay the absurd price for HBO Go along with the restrictions it has just for Game of Thrones. HBO doesn’t get my money until they offer GoT for a reasonable price on a convenient service. But I did go and delete all my Dexter torrents from my hard drive, because its available on Netflix – so Showtime can get a cut of my money if I decide I want to rewatch that show sometime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

…and that’s purely to do with image and capitalizing on a localized issue in a global market.

The bottled water crowd also does “value add” waters that include a bit of sugar and carbonation.

And this is exactly the approach the entertainment industry should be taking. After all, people can get/make their own entertainment for free — there’s really no “movie” or “music” industry monopoly; they’re really all just “ways people relax and interact with each other”. If they don’t toss in something value-added that would make people want to choose THEIR style of entertainment, no amount of legislation is going to prevent people from being entertained elsewhere, even if that’s with things they actually produced.

But anti-piracy isn’t about that, as has already been mentioned: it’s about raising barriers to entry, thereby artificially increasing value of the product. This is epitomized in the diamond industry, and that is the standard to which the entertainment industry measures itself. It’s obvious to everyone else that they’d do much better comparing themselves to the consumables industry, as entertainment is an infinite consumable resource, not a finite one.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

A major fallacy in your arguments (that hasn’t been mentioned in the comments yet) is that creators only benefit marginally under the current system. The middlemen make out like the bandits they are, and they are the ones pushing for the regulatory changes that cause culture to get locked up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

Since you want IP laws to be about preventing people from
‘getting something for free’ I want them abolished. IP laws should only be about serving a public interest. They should not be about preventing anyone from getting something for free. If anything they should be about expanding the public domain so that more works are freely available to the public. That this is no longer the intent, as you even admit, is good reason to abolish these laws.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: What?!?

You chose a pointless either/or when the real problem is that numbers of consumers aren’t paying yet can enjoy the products.

Yet time after time we read reports of record revenues and profits despite so many not paying. We also read reports of all that free consumption driving those consumers’ purchases, as it acts as advertising or previews allowing consumers to choose what they wish to purchase.

Those like you just can’t stand it when we refuse to be manipulated by your bosses.

PS. Not a pirate. I boycott.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Since when is requiring people to pay a pittance for goods a "stick"? That's basic free market.

“numbers of consumers aren’t paying yet can enjoy the products”

This has been true before any of us were born. It will be true after we’re all dead. It will never go away. From people making mixtapes for each other to swapping videos with friends to borrowing from libraries, it’s been happening longer than you’ve been aware of life. Yes, that includes people who did so illegally, that’s why your hereos launches their laughable “home taping is killing music” propaganda campaign (shortly before they worked out how to make more money than they’d ever seen by offering a more saleable product, of course).

If “some people don’t pay” is what you worry about, you’re doing it wrong. It’s a doomed mission. Especially when the “solutions” you usually favour only attack the rights of and availability to those who do pay.

“You can’t compete with free.”

Well, apart from all the times where that’s proven to be a outright lie. But you love those lies, don’t you? You can’t attack the object of your obsession with the truth.

Ninja (profile) says:

I have yet to read it but the things pointed out in this article about the results are nothing we don’t know by heart now, unless you are in the entertainment industry payroll of course. Nobody is asking for the impossible from the MAFIAA, we are just asking easy access for affordable prices. I’m willing to bet that the only stuff that are pirated a lot today are exactly the stuff the MAFIAA stubbornly decided to restrict access through available services in Sweden. History says I’d be right.

DannyB (profile) says:

I thought the best way to stop piracy . . .

. . . was to go after everyone except the actual pirates.

* Go after ISPs. (Ignore internet backbones.)

* Go after Google. (Ignore other search engines. Ignore the actual websites that host pirated content.)

* Go after domain names. (Ignore the collateral damage to the remaining 99.999% of the site caused by one pirate user unknown to the site’s owner.)

* Go after online storage lockers. (Better yet, just go after any new technology that facilitates storage or communication between people, like printing presses, cassette tapes, and blank CDs and DVDs.)

* Go after manufacturers of hardware mp3 players that fit in your pocket. (Diamond Rio was the first big lawsuit that the RIAA wisely initiated which was amazingly successful at stopping all forms music piracy.)

This is not an exhaustive list. But THIS is how you stop piracy folks!

That One Guy (profile) says:


As the article notes, there have been countless ‘anti-piracy’ laws passed, over decades, and yet none of them have had more than a minor, temporary effect on piracy at best. And yet those buying the laws continue to do the same thing, year after year, pushing the same laws, the same ideas, despite their utter failures to date. Given that, the way I see it there’s two possibilities:

1. Almost every last person in the entertainment industry, with very few exceptions, is a complete and utter idiot, lacking even the most basic pattern recognition skills, and incapable of learning even the most obvious lesson from their past actions.


2. Stopping piracy isn’t actually the goal, and is instead merely the excuse, the justifications for their actions.

#1 is possible, but unlikely in the extreme. You don’t reach the point of running multi-billion dollar companies if you are lacking in smarts and business skill, and only an idiot would throw millions away if they weren’t getting anything out of it.

Now, if stopping piracy isn’t the actual goal, what might it be? If I had to guess, I’d say the real goal is two-fold:

Killing off competition before it can grow, and maintaining control.

Methods of distribution like file-sharing can be used for piracy, yes, but they can also be used for artists not affiliated with the major labels to get their music out there, all without having to go through a middle-man. Books not affiliated with major publishers can be shared and read, and movies put out by indie studios can be shown without ever having to go through the theaters.

By insisting on onerous burdens on third-parties, in order to ‘fight piracy’, the various ‘anti-piracy’ laws make it a hassle to host content created by the public, forcing sites and services to spend time and money that they may not have policing their sites, ‘just in case’, and making it all the more tempting for them to forgo allowing public content entirely.

Even when sites/services can spare the time and money, the incredibly one-sided nature of the laws means that they are given all the incentive in the world to take something down on the flimsiest claim, and penalized if they do not, making it a hassle for content creators who might have their stuff removed on a bogus claim, forced to fight if they want it back up, if they can even do so.

Of course, if a creator doesn’t want to deal with the possibility of their stuff being pulled thanks to a bogus claim, or removed as collateral damage thanks to a bot flagging something they created, they could always sign up with the major labels/studios/publishers, who never seem to have to deal with that sort of thing…

When the only way to be able to create quality music required studio resources, the only way to be heard was to sign with a record label, the only way to be promoted was to sign away all the rights to your music, the labels had all the control.

However, when anyone can put their music up for people to listen to and/or buy, when what previously required the resources of a studio to create can now be done with a modest investment in some decent hardware and software, when you can promote yourself through social media, all without signing away anything, suddenly the control of the labels starts crumbling, and their contracts a lot less appealing.

When the only way to take your idea and turn it into a movie was through a major studio, requiring you to sign everything away and maybe get something for it, the only way to show your film was through the theaters, which required a studio to achieve, then they had all the control.

However, when you can crowdfund your film without signing away the rights to anything, when special effects that previously required massive resources can now be done for relatively cheap, and when there are numerous services willing to host and/or sell the resulting film, the studios suddenly don’t have nearly the chokehold that they had enjoyed before.

When the only way to be published was to submit your would-be-book to one of the major publishers and hope, when you had to sign away the rights just for them to consider publishing your work, and and had to go through them if you ever wanted to see your book in solid form, the publishers had all the control.

However, when anyone can write up a work and share it with anyone they wish to, when various services make it easy to post and sell your works, whether in physical or digital format, when you can do your own promotion at the cost of little more than your own time, and all without signing over the rights to your books, then suddenly the publishers’ previous position of deciding what would and would not be published is a lot less solid.

Short version: If the goals of all the anti-piracy laws are actually to combat piracy, then they have failed utterly each and every time. Therefore it stands to reason that either the ones buying the laws are incompetent fools, or they aren’t actually trying to get rid of piracy with the laws they are buying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Simple

“However, when anyone can put their music up for people to listen to and/or buy, when what previously required the resources of a studio to create can now be done with a modest investment in some decent hardware and software, when you can promote yourself through social media, all without signing away anything, suddenly the control of the labels starts crumbling, and their contracts a lot less appealing.”

You kinda missed the point. The point is that, even before the Internet, it was entirely possible for artists to independently become successful if it weren’t for a legal structure and collection societies that made it very difficult for those artists to do so. A very small handful of business interests have wrongfully gained exclusive control over broadcasting spectra and cableco infrastructure. Collection societies have had a long history of threatening to sue restaurants and other venues that dare try to host independent artists without paying them an extortion fee under the pretext that someone ‘might’ infringe. This and a one sided legal structure has deterred independent venues from hosting independent bands and performers. All of this has, before the Internet, made it difficult for independent artists to compete. Now they want to do to the Internet what they have unethically accomplished outside the Internet, to gain the same government granted monopolistic control over content distribution. Not only does this need to be stopped but the control they have gained outside the Internet needs to be reversed. Govt granted broadcasting and cableco monopolies should be abolished. The ‘tragedy of the commons’ excuse is nothing but a pretext put forth by the monopolists that control these content distribution platforms.

Shmerl says:

Re: Simple

Very well said. It’s also clearly illustrated by DRM usage. It never stops any piracy, but it provides them lock-in (market control), slows technology progress through standards poisoning, covers their incompetence and so on. I.e. unethical tool used for crooked purposes (I’d say it’s a “perfect fit” for it).

Plus of course it lets them writing their own arbitrary laws using the anti-circumvention backdoor. I.e. when they want to declare anything they want illegal, they just need to attach DRM to the subject. I.e. it’s not even about profits, it’s about being control freaks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Simple

This is friggin’ brilliant. At the risk of diminishing this insightful analysis, let me try to add a couple of points to it.

Recall, as has been covered here at TD a number of times, that movie studios set up films as independent corporations that lose money. Using the same reasoning, we must either assume that everyone involved in this process is an idiot or that having these independent corporations turn a profit is not the goal.

So why would the studios even care about protecting such films from piracy? They’re losing money.

Because it’s not about piracy. And it’s not about making money (not directly, anyway). It’s about control and Hollywood accounting.

Second point: Hollywood has gotten used to the idea that it can make the same bad film over and over again and profit from it. Take, for example, the “Fast and Furious” franchise. These movies are shit, from start to finish. If an alien species surveying our planet saw these as the end-product of our civilization, they could obliterate our planet with clean consciences.

But they’ve made, what, seven of them? Of course they have, because they’ve spent decades training the public to consume them. Which the public dutifully does.

But suppose better movies come along. Movies produced independently. Movies outside the Hollywood systems. Movies that gasp provide alternatives choices. Maybe some people would go see one of those instead of watching Fast and Furious 18.

The way to forestall that possibility is to maintain control — to squash alternatives before they gain a foothold. And that is exactly what Hollywood’s doing: they’re actively attacking anything that is not-Hollywood.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Simple

Regarding your first point about the ‘independent’ corporations set up to lose money, you’re half right, but you seem to have missed the reasoning behind the trick.

The purpose behind the separate corporations is to make it look like the movie isn’t profitable on one set of books, namely the one used to calculate how much the director/actors get. When it comes to paying the studio, the investors, and yes, taxes(they’re not that stupid), they want the movie to be as profitable as possible.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Simple

That’s the thing that always gets me, although I’m not familiar enough with the US tax system to completely understand. If they’re paying taxes on profits, but then claiming there’s no profits when it comes to honouring agreements on gross points… why is that not a clear indicator that the latter figures are false? Surely, it should just be a case of getting a subpeona for the tax records and showing the differences to prove they’re lying?

I understand it’s probably a lot more complicated than that, but I don’t understand how they can get away with it, especially since it’s such common knowledge that it happens. I know, bribes, etc. are probably involved somewhere…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Simple

I could be wrong, but I believe it goes something like this:

Company A: Original company, the one that makes all the money.
Company B: Company set up specifically to ‘lose’ money.

When it comes to paying taxes

Both companies pay, with the important bit being that at this stage they are considered separate, not two branches of the same company. Company A, which makes all the money, pays taxes on what they earned. Company B, which ‘lost’ a bunch of money, doesn’t have any profits to pay taxes on, or at most pays a small amount.

When it comes to paying producers/actors

This is where the trick comes into play. Rather than treating both companies as separate entities, the books are combined, treating the two companies as branches of the same company. As a result, what Company B ‘lost’ is subtracted from what Company A made. Since the entire point of Company B was to lose more than Company A made, and the ‘charges’ made up out of thin air reflect this, by combining the two Company A goes from profitable to having ‘lost’ a whole bunch of money, and with no profits, there’s nothing to pay out to the actors/producers.

The numbers are (mostly) legitimate, at least if you don’t look too closely, it’s how they’re treated, whether added together or kept apart that allows for the creative accounting that lets the studios screw over the people that they’d otherwise have to pay.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Simple

The IRS doesn’t care so long as the taxes are paid. None of the congresscritters are going to want to upset the gravy train by going after Hollywood’s favorite way to screw actors over. And you can be sure that any time an actor or producer manages to get the funds required to file a lawsuit, and it looks like the judge is interested enough to allow it, the studio in question will be falling over themselves to ‘settle’ and avoid having to open their books.

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:

Re: Simple

I’m calling Hanlon’s razor on this: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

And if you think stupid people don’t get to be in charge of things, I refer you to government. Or, to put it another way, “Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.” (Bernard Ingham)

Ryunosuke says:

The entertainment businesses (MPAA, RIAA, etc) has ALWAYS been resistant to innovation. Innovation is risky, why run a risky venture when established revenue is available.

on the MPAA side, i can remember the entire 1982 VCR (the Mr Rogers testifying one) congressional hearings brought on by the MPAA due to “The VCR will kill off movie theatres (sound familiar?)

on the RIAA side, there are too numerous accounts of them trying to stifle innovation, all the way from Thomas Edison’s phonograph, all the way till digital recording, the music business has ALWAYS been resistant to innovation, only being brought to the modern age, whatever age that is, kicking and screaming like a spoiled toddler.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

on the RIAA side, there are too numerous accounts of them trying to stifle innovation, all the way from Thomas Edison’s phonograph,

That should be since Edison’s phonograph, as without that invention the RIAA would not exist, just like without he printing press the book publishers would not exist, or without film the MPAA would not exist. They all have one thing in common, they are based on others people innovations, where there was a need for a gatekeeper to the production facilities, and now that technology has removed the need for that gate-keeping function, they are fighting tooth and nail to gain control over the technology that is making them obsolete.

jameshogg says:

The deeper problem

My views on this have evolved a bit: I don’t think the solution to piracy is to offer more legitimate service on demand. For one thing it’s a bit utopian to expect such services to always be ready at the whim for consumers (servers crash, need upgrading, traffic peaks etc), and if you have an audience that must have their demands met instantaneously, with no degree of patience whatsoever, it only takes the slightest thing to throw their patience off and go for a pirated option.

The issue of “solving piracy” in a copyright legal system is too shallow a debate for me. I want the more radical option of acknowledging that copyright is a stupid idea to begin with, and get rid of it altogether.

I have a couple of metaphors to best compare copyright with to show it’s unenforcability. The first one is that of a currency. Copyright is for all intents and purposes a currency (not backed by any standard like gold) because you are making copies of something of artificial value and forbidding anyone else from making a copy without your permission, with the intent of giving value to something originally not of material value through social conditioning.

The trouble is that we all know why a system of currency where “anything with a dollar sign on it counts as a dollar and only we, the US state, may make copies of that dollar” would not work as a system of money, while “anything with hard-to-copy special paper with special printed markings and authentication strips that can only be uniquely created by us the US state may be made with our permission, whilst anyone else attempting it will be caught rather easily, counts as a dollar” would work, as it evidently does. Try protecting your dollar forgeries through copyright legislation instead of fraudulent currency legislation, and change your definition of dollar to “a copyright of the dollar symbol” to see how far under that would get you the country.

Monopoly money is used as a tool of ridicule against a politician’s financial policies for precisely this reason: everybody knows that it would be horrendous to circulate Monopoly money as your attempt at a state currency. Yet, because Monopoly money is copyrighted, in theory this should work and should be enforceable as a tradable commodity. But we all know how easily we could cheat such a system. Not even Ron Paul would use such a system of evading state-controlled-and-inflated money.

The second metaphor to describe copyright’s uselessness is this: memes. Richard Dawkins coined the word to describe a cultural unit that replicates similar to genes on a Darwinian level, to show that Darwinian evolution happens in other areas. It is more than a metaphor, because all language, ideology, tradecraft and tradition can be described as things that have passed on down the generations.

Memes spread from person to person through copying. Let me reiterate: copying. What the copyright advocates claim is rather extraordinary. They believe not only that can control this replication process, but that they can forbid everyone else from doing so if they choose. So that Darwinian evolution only applies in this little bubble they’ve set themselves. As if they can predict the course of cultural evolution their art will take and know what steps will be needed to put a stop to it. As we all know, copyrighted material can manifest as viral form and not just digitally, and in doing so they take the form of memes. The Bible is one of the oldest memes/collection of memes in the world, but the Catholic Church could not stop the Reformation, which need I remind you all was pushed forward by unauthorised copying of the holy book that church wanted to forbid at all costs.

I don’t really need the internet to show why the attempt to restrict and/or control memes will not go the way you intend. You cannot stop folk passing on art to next-door neighbours/friends who haven’t paid for it for example. You can’t stop the art’s mutation into something else (stupidly called “recoding” in some copyright circles that want a put a stop to it, for unrelated reasons of artist “identity” as property), because nobody can claim to stop a genetic mutation let alone a memetic one.

I once heard someone say on forums/boards like this the following: “Intellectual property is all in the mind” and I thought it was very good at honing in on what I’m meaning here.

If you get past this mentality and see it for the doomed, incompetent policy that it is, you can look to the paywalls that work and guarantee the artist real property powers to set whatever price he/she wants for work. The assurance contract economies are the greatest functional alternatives precisely because it sees the value in the work done to do the art, not the intangible end-product which is de facto worth Monopoly money. “I will only do this work if I receive $100,000 in payment” interferes with no freedoms and does not have this contradiction of labour/property that copyright seems to have. Freedom of creativity and ability to protect property (strictly should be called worker’s rights) are all protected with this simple request, where the $100,000 must be met by the other end of the market who have an interest in seeing the art: the audience.

Which is why Kickstarter and Patreon are the real revolutionaries here, not Netflix, Spotify or iTunes. The latter have to push their costs to zero as much as they can to satisfy a crowd with no responsibilities to pay the artist under copyright. But with crowdfunding – specifically assurance contract economies – where the art is forbidden from being released at all until the artist is paid up, it makes piracy truly impossible and therefore it becomes the only way to really make piracy stop. This way the audience must pay in order to get any art at all, and at the whim set by the artist. And you have a functioning free market where the artist can set the prices, make the profits, and not deliver the art if the audience isn’t meeting their dues. Trading your physical work done for the collective payment of the audience functions as a market. Just look to tickets, subscriptions, pre-orders etc to see assurance contracts in action.

That to me is a far greater method of making creativity work that has some real force behind it. Not this silly game where you’re chasing everybody around the world for Monopoly money forgeries.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Re: The deeper problem

Your first assumption has a problem. Nobody is expecting any service to be up 100% of the time. Legal streaming and download services do not need perfect availability, they merely need to be better than the piracy option.
Give me a site where I can find any content, no matter who publishes it, at a reasonable price, and with no stupid restrictions on what I can do with it, and I’d use that site over piracy any day.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re: The deeper problem

I looked at it again; Congress shall have power to create copyright law. Would eliminating copyright law not mean eliminating the power to create it in the first place?

If they have the power to create it, we’d never be able to eliminate it, just play a game of see-saw in which copyright terms ebb and flow according to who has the most power at the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

piracy *as* the innovator

A key point these papers always seem to miss is that it’s “piracy” itself that has been one of the main driving forces for technology, innovation, and a greater breadth of consumer offerings. Some might even argue that we’d be stuck in a technological dark age if not for piracy forcing industry to continuously offer better products.

For instance, consider the entire development of “read only” optical storage media, and its perceived role as a “piracy stopper.”

Would CDs have been developed if not for the underground copying of audio cassette tapes?

Would LaserDisks and DVDs have been developed if Hollywood had been able to kill off the VCR?

Would iTunes have been born if not for Napster?

Or would low-priced Student/Lite/Consumer Grade versions of professional software have been offered if not for widespread “piracy” of popular software that ordinary people could barely afford?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: piracy *as* the innovator

The optical media you ask about would have developed over time anyway: the military had development projects underway to replace their magnetic media with non-magnetic media. Once the technology was declassified the private sector ran with it and piracy could be considered an accelerant.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: piracy *as* the innovator

I have to disagree. Seriously.

CDs were developed because they had superior audio quality. I remember the first time I listened to one in a high end stereo store in the mid 1980s. At first, I thought, it sounds good. Then in a moment, it dawned on me. There was a total silence in the background. No background hiss. This was unlike phonograph records or cassette tape.

I don’t think piracy had anything to do with the development of DVDs, or iTunes. In particular, iTunes was a music store that sold music through purchases from the get to. I believe the evolution of some kind of digital stores for software, music or other digital wares was inevitable. By the late 1990’s some commercial software was already delivered by internet download.

I would also point out another counter example. Bittorrent. It was developed for perfectly legitimate and lawful purposes.

Pirates simply used Bittorrent as a tool. Just as they might use other tools.

Any tools that enable and facilitate storage or transmission of information can be used for piracy. That always has been and always will be true. If it is delivered to your senses in a way that your natural sense organs (eyes, ears, nose) can perceive what Hollywood is delivering, then there will always be piracy.

One problem is that Hollywood has always overreached. They considered home cassette taping of records to be piracy. Just so you would have to re-purchase in order to listen in your car. They considered making a mix tape of your favorite songs to be piracy. Idiots.

What they SHOULD be considering piracy is a high volume operation that is making thousands of knockoff CDs or DVDs that look genuine. That’s what those gigantic statutory infringement fines are for. Not for a mom at home to get sued out of her lifetime earnings over two dozen songs.

The lesson is simple. We need to eliminate all forms of storage and transmission of information in order to eliminate piracy. Printing presses, audio and video recordings and transmission. Computers. The Internet. The importance of all these pale in comparison with the trillions of dollars per hour that piracy drains from the global economy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: piracy *as* the innovator

“I have to disagree. Seriously.

CDs were developed because they had superior audio quality. I remember the first time I listened to one in a high end stereo store in the mid 1980s. At first, I thought, it sounds good. Then in a moment, it dawned on me. There was a total silence in the background. No background hiss. This was unlike phonograph records or cassette tape.”

Disagreement returned. Even more seriously.

Missing from your comment is any mention of digital audio tape. DAT was developed in the 1970s, and was intended to be a high-quality replacement for audio cassette tape. Because DAT was CD-quality, but also recordable, the record industry fought DAT tooth and nail through the courts, dragging it out for years, and in the end, successfully killed the technology. It’s worth noting that even in the analog era, with cassette tapes being limited to only a few generations of copies before sounding horrible, DAT would have allowed infinite copying of (analog) copies without any quality loss. The record industry viewed this as an existential threat.

During that lengthy legal battle against DAT, the record industry introduced its own form of digital music, the Compact Disk, which unlike DAT, was not recordable (by home users) then, and the CD remained uncopyable for more than a decade.

So in the greater analysis, it could be said that the audio CD was developed for not one but two reasons — both piracy related– due to widespread home cassette tape recording AND the fear of future digital recording using DAT.

That’s not to say that digital music would have NEVER been developed and marketed by the record industry if piracy had not forced their hand. But it’s naive to think that piracy-prevention was not a major factor — if not the primary driving force — behind the development of the CD.

Anonymous Coward says:

“And none of it works.”

The intent is not just to ‘stop piracy’. The intent is to stop competition. and it does work for that purpose. For example Megaupload was removed for no good reason and it provided content creators a competing way to distribute their content without going through the legacy players. So it does work.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have no understanding of why anyone would bother to pirate anything produced by the entertainment industry.

I do find lots of things at the library that are entertaining, including books, CDs, and DVDs (though certainly lots of it is crap too, agreed). Pawnshops can be worth a look too. The labels have that annoying habit of trying to keep interesting stuff (“Zipadee doo daaa, …”; Songs of the South) out of circulation until it’s convenient for them, but we don’t have to suffer their attempts to manipulate us.

Spitting in their faces as they vent their apoplectic frustration is entertaining too, hence Techdirt. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Wrong goal?

So how about a different approach? […] One that has been shown, time and time again, to actually reduce piracy rates?

Why should this even be a goal? Maybe the goal should be to make enough money to fund further work. You could call people “pirates” but television worked for decades without very many people paying directly–and they weren’t trying to “convert” those people into paying customers either. One shouldn’t automatically start from the assumption that free copying is something to be prevented.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Wrong goal?

Why should this even be a goal? Maybe the goal should be to make enough money to fund further work.

It’s not so much that ‘reducing piracy’ is or should be the primary goal, but rather that even when you look at it that way the evidence shows that enforcement doesn’t work.

If enforcement was highly effective in reducing piracy and creating opportunities, while innovation was only effective at creating opportunities, we’d still argue for innovation, because reducing piracy is ultimately not the point. But the reality is even more stark than that: enforcement is effective at neither, and innovation is effective at both. We’re making the point that even if the entertainment industry is going to stubbornly stand by its insistence that reducing piracy is vitally important, it should still give up on enforcement and focus on innovation.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Wrong goal?

WE will charge as much as possible, then LOWER the price is small amounts, to get the MOST out of a $0.50 product..
WE control the WHOLE of the industry From recording to distribution to END sales..

REST of the world…
WOW, a new format..
WOW, and can get 7 Quality albums on 1 CD
WOW, I can get 700+ Songs on 1 DVD..
WOW, I can play these on my Car stereo..
WOW, Bluetooth, I can NOW use my 64gig iphone and send my Music to my Stereo, DVD, CAR, using BT..

Understand something..
MOST money earned by artists was from Tours?
Recordings, generally, made them $0.03-0.05 per sale..

ECA (profile) says:

Lots of Different things here

There are differences here..
MAKING a law..
Enforcing a law..
How to find those Abusing the law..
The original meaning of the law was for the SALE and distribution of Media/music/movies..
Unless it was PUSHED, making copies for your OWN use, was never a concern.
But with changing FORMATS, Reel/VHS/BETA/CD/DVD/FLASH/THE CLOUD… HOW do we keep a copy of our MEDIA?
the Fun part is What happens, and WHO is looking for Stolen media?
City/state/feds??? they all have other things to do.
So, the INDUSTRY does the looking.
this is not a POLICE OFFICER, Knocking on the Door.
This is a LARGE ELEPHANT, Rushing into your Home, sticking its NOSE into every corner of your business, and Life.

The problem comes with HOW they wish to do it..
The LAWS are there, its HOW they find the Media, and HOW they enforce it, and What rights they have TO ENFORCE..

Anonymous Coward says:

when are you going to realise that the entertainment industries dont do the sensible things because THEY DONT WANT TO! THEY WANT TO CARRY ON DOWN THE ROAD OF SUING AS MANY AS POSSIBLE BECAUSE THEY CAN GET STUPID POLITICIANS TO RAMP LAWS UP EVEN FURTHER!then realise that regardless of how many times it is denied by the industries or the people, the main aim is to control the internet and the vatious governments are helping as much as possible because they can piggy back off the industries, checking results from ISPs about who did what and when! in other words, the industries will get the control they want, so are then able to make bittorrent the dogs bollocks service everyone knows it to be, but scorned by the industries. once they get control, they will use it, so the label will change full circle. governments will be able to deny surveillance omitting that they are doing so but third hand, going through the records kept for the industries.

does it sound feasible? sure does to me, but then i wouldn’t trust any government or any industry that spends as much money as the entertainment industry does on court cases and STOPPING the advance of progress!

Anonymous Coward says:

How to stop piracy:

Give people what they want, when they want and on whatever device they want. It isn’t fucking rocket science.

ANY delay, ANY reason for not allowing content in a certain country because of certain previous contracts will ONLY make people pirate it.

HBO Now isn’t available in what happens? We pirate the shit out of Game of Thrones.

If HBO Now as in Canada, do you think Canadians would still pirate? Probably not.

There’s your answer. Either give, we take..and you don’t get money.

techie1 (profile) says:

Sums it up nicely

“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”

GEMont (profile) says:

One last time with feeling....

Sigh…. the last time – I promise.


They created Peer To Peer and spread the software for free, that makes it possible, and opened websites specifically to facilitate the process. They did it on purpose.

If file sharing was to stop, the Legacy Industries; TV, Music, Movies – long time holdings of organized crime – would be unable to use “PIRACY” as the reason for remaking the legal system to allow them to take over the Internet.

It is the web that herald’s the eventual demise of these dinosaur industries and it behooves them to attempt to prevent this demise by the only method the mob has ever known, own it, or kill it.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: One last time with feeling....

You will have to do some investigation of your own, as there is no longer anyone, anywhere showing these results.

Look at the ownership of the first websites that originally offered all of the various peer to peer software as well as the link-based archives to all the copyrighted movies and music.

For years, the owners of the copyrighted material linked to on these websites, did absolutely nothing to prevent the downloading of their products, because they were also the owners of the websites that offered the ways and means.

There was a video on Utube for years, that did a wonderful job of showing exactly these details, but according to the compete lack of knowledge in this area, apparently nobody in America saw it.

That video is of course long gone.

Warner Bros, Disney, CNN, and a bunch of the largest Legacy Industry holdings, offered the software for free, and the links to copyrighted material for free on these websites and massively promoted the whole idea of file sharing.

The introduction of File-Sharing/Piracy was done specifically with the idea of creating a “menace” that the creators could later “attack” by altering the laws to better suit these same industries, including through the changes in copyright legislation, and they have succeeded quite well in pulling it off.

It is very likely that the Legacy Industries did not actually “write” the software, or come up with the “idea” of file sharing – they more than likely stole it all for their own use from the public who did write it and who were using the process for private trading, but they certainly were the primary force behind promoting the process publicly.

Piracy is the most commonly used rationale behind the secret Trade Agreements like TPP, although the end product will affect a shitload more than just music and movie/art ownership rights once its secretly ratified.

Even the corporate run Obama Admin now considers the Public Domain as a place where good stuff FALLS INTO once its ownership is lost – a graveyard of orphaned products.

The same process was done with drugs. Create a “menace” that can later be “attacked” through legislation that changes the rights of the American Public. Same with the War on Terror.

The simple fact that nobody seems to recognize this as a business model, goes a long way to explaining why it is so successful.

Even the fact that the legacy industries have done NONE of the things that will END “piracy”, and ALL of things that will PROMOTE “piracy”, seems to slide right past the public’s awareness.

Never attribute to Stupidity that which can better be explained by Greed, when vast sums of money are involved.

Do some research. Its publicly available information. Be the first on your block to pull the wool away from your eyes.

Or not.
Your choice.

As I said above, I won’t bother mentioning this shit again as it seems to be impossible for the general public – even those astute posters on techdirt – to comprehend and nobody seems to be able or willing to do any basic research any more.

Of course, if you’re one of those people that believes large corporations would not, or can not “conspire” to fuck the public, for whatever reason pleases your mind, then c’est la vie.

No amount of evidence can ever hope to change belief.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: One last time with feeling....

“You will have to do some investigation of your own, as there is no longer anyone, anywhere showing these results.”

So, I have to go and find your citations because it’s such a conspiracy that nobody is proving your assertion any more? Call me sceptical, but I somehow doubt you.

“For years, the owners of the copyrighted material linked to on these websites, did absolutely nothing to prevent the downloading of their products”

Having been online for more than 25 years, I can assure you that this is absolute bullshit. However, I know this kind of trick – if I show you all the early attempts to attack Napster and newsgroups, etc., you’re going to claim that doesn’t count somehow. So, tell me what you consider the “first websites” and I’ll probably find some legal proof to prove you wrong.

“There was a video on Utube for years”

Wow, some random person had a video on a website you can’t spell! You expect me to take that at face value?

“No amount of evidence can ever hope to change belief.”

Luckily for you, you’re actually offered no amount of evidence. Sorry, even paranoid conspiracy theories need some attempt at proving an assertion.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 One last time with feeling....

Name calling works just as well as your bare assertions with zero evidence.

If you want to convince people, I’d suggest “erm, there was a guy who said something once but I can’t remember who and can’t prove it but you’re a sheep if you don’t believe me” is a very poor tactic.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 One last time with feeling....

Why on earth would I want to convince you of something that you have made abundantly clear, you do not wish to be convinced about?

How is that even possible??

Why would I bother?

Had I posted a wad of articles, you would have done your level best to examine all the sources of those articles in search of something you could claim was false or erroneous, in order to cancel the value of all the rest, but you adamantly refuse to do the same sort of research to find out the truth by simply looking at the owners of the websites that offered the first software packages and the material links.

You have expressed fully, your desire to remain ignorant and I fully support that desire – anyone should be able to remain as ignorant as they wish.

On the other hand, anyone who actually wants to discover the truth can do this simple exercise and become less ignorant.

The best way to not see, is to not look.

No name calling at all. As I said, its your choice.
Either way, I support that choice.

I just don’t consider it to be an intelligent choice.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 One last time with feeling....

“Why on earth would I want to convince you of something that you have made abundantly clear, you do not wish to be convinced about? “

Sadly, you’ve read exactly the opposite of my actual opinion then. I just don’t believe your claim to be true and require evidence to convince me. Evidence which you have not even attempted to offer, other than vague claimed memories of a video that no longer exists, and who the hell knows if that even referred to primary sources, let alone had a foot in reality?

Although, I do love that you’ve created a fictional version of myself whose opinions you’ll second guess and attack. Far better than attempting a debate with reality. God forbid you participate in a discussion with my actual opinions.

“you adamantly refuse to do the same sort of research”

Because you refuse to offer an shred of evidence for your own assertion. You’re right, I don’t spend hours of my time researching what other people are claiming if they can’t be bothered to provide any citations themselves. To my mind, that either means you’re lying, you realise that your sources are paranoid conspiracy nuts whose “evidence” can be refuted in minutes or you’re relying on half-remembered videos that may or may not themselves been sourced and therefore unreliable.

If my assumptions are wrong, I apologise, but in the face of zero evidence I have to base my assumptions on what is in front of me – which is someone who claims certain things are real but refuses to participate in an honest conversation about it.

It’s very simple – your original claim is that not only did the legacy industries leverage P2P from its earliest days to achieve certain end goals, they created it themselves. Show me why you think this, and I can evaluate the evidence and either agree or show you evidence on why you’re mistaken.

If you refuse to even provide a reason why I should doubt my own knowledge of how P2P was created and used in its early days, I’m not going to believe your words just because you say so and will waste no time researching your wild claims. That’s the intelligent choice.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 One last time with feeling....

And one last time hopefully…

Let me guess. You just assumed that the evidence would be lying all over the place and was readily accessible and that you – during those 25 years cruising the web – just never noticed it at all.

Sad is right.

As I stated at the start, the only evidence left online that I know of, is the legal ownership of the first websites used to disseminate the original p2p software, which were also used as link sites to copyrighted material, which as I pointed out, could be examined by anyone interested in learning the truth without too much trouble.

No available citation exists for these facts as far as I know.

While I’m certain someone has a copy of the video that did such a thorough explanation showing the ownership of each of those websites, I have no link to any such copy, or knowledge of where any existing copies may be.

I had hoped that someone reading this “discussion” might have a link, but apparently not.

So, as you can see, I have no citation to offer, because none exist, as I said.

That you find this lack of available linked evidence to be sufficient grounds for out of hand dismissal of the actual point of the post, is both unsurprising and of little concern.

Skeptics are, by their nature, closed systems. They already own all the true answers, and need nothing new, and thereby learn nothing new.

That you are keeping this dialogue alive is a little surprising, but I suppose it just means that you feel you have the upper hand and want to extend the sensation as long as possible.

As for “debating” with your true identity, whatever that may be, no debate was offered. Citations were demanded. When no citations were forthcoming, you had a verbal tantrum.

Debate indeed. ๐Ÿ™‚

Was this the “discussion with my actual opinions” you had in mind?

Having been online for more than 25 years, I can assure you that this is absolute bullshit.

Your idea of a discussion is a little one sided.

For example, this is from your last response above:

“It’s very simple – your original claim is that not only did the legacy industries leverage P2P from its earliest days to achieve certain end goals, they created it themselves.”

Whereas, in my response to your original citation demand, one finds this:

“It is very likely that the Legacy Industries did not actually “write” the software, or come up with the “idea” of file sharing – they more than likely stole it all for their own use from the public who did write it and who were using the process for private trading, but they certainly were the primary force behind promoting the process publicly.”

I note throughout this “discussion” you tend to overlook anything I write, that cannot be used as a weapon.

Yet, this below, is a common thread in your missives to me “…refuses to participate in an honest conversation about it…“.

Honesty is a two way street.

If you are seeking some sort of apology for mis-wording a single sentence “They created Peer To Peer“, then I will say that it should have read “They created Peer To Peer as we know it today.” As far as I knew, it used to be called just plain “file sharing” when it was just kids trading files.

I had thought the quoted section above more than explained that, but perhaps you just overlooked that part in your eagerness to maintain that upper hand.

In fact it now appears that this is actually the whole of your beef.

If so, I sincerely hope my second explanation is sufficient to put your argument to rest.

Or in case all of that was too subtle and will also be overlooked, let me rephrase the whole thing.

No the Legacy Industries were likely not the original writers of the original code used to share files on the internet, although in truth, I do not know this to be a fact, and they actually could have been the writers of the original code.

I assume that file sharing was originally started by kids who simply wanted to use the www system to share files and that some of those kids were responsible for the code.

The Legacy Industries however, used the idea to turn what was once a small and fairly private process, into a public process that caught on quickly and spread to become what we know today as P2P.

Thus “They created Peer To Peer as we know it today.”

Since the point of my post was the reason WHY “They created Peer To Peer as we know it today.”, and because you have studiously ignored that point in favor of beating the snot out of one sentence, I have to assume that your purpose was redirection, not clarification.

If this is not sufficient answer to your complaint, then c’est la vie eh. It is the final answer to your complaint.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 One last time with feeling....

“No available citation exists for these facts as far as I know.”

Then, you have less evidence available than most conspiracy theorists. People who believe in the Loch Ness monster at least attempt to point to some evidence. Yet, you expect me to take your claims at face value.

Look, I’m not disagreeing that the legacy industries are doing some shady shit, and that they have tried to leverage P2P as part of that. I agree wholeheartedly. What I don’t believe is that they were there as early as you claim, especially with regard to your claim that they “created P2P”. This should have been a simple request, yet there’s not so much as a hyperlink or quotation in this conversation.

“As for “debating” with your true identity, whatever that may be, no debate was offered. Citations were demanded. When no citations were forthcoming, you had a verbal tantrum.”

I asked you to back up a claim, you refused, then I laughed at your attempt to claim that your half-remembered a video from some guy that no longer exists somehow counts. There was no tantrum, only a refusal to go doing your research for you. You made the claim, you back it up, that’s how it works.

You’ve given me no reason to believe you, and not offered a reason why you believe it yourself apart from some random crap you claim to have read or saw (but conveniently can’t provide).

I’m not sure where this kind of debate tactic works, but not here. I merely asked you top back up something you’ve said with evidence or facts. You have none. OK, but I’m never going to be convinced by that.

Jewelant (user link) says:

The little guy

So, I have a question. What is the little guy who owns his or her own copyright to do about people stealing the work they do? I’m talking things that have a notice on them, exif information imbedded . . . Not all creators have a potload of money to promote or chase thieves that just take what they want. And they have as valid a claim to their property as anyone else. Here be my article on the subject:

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