Posts Tagged ‘ piracy ’

I knew a guy once…

… who told me that Bob Dylan was and continues to be more influential than Jesus Christ. If so then let this message ring out among the people.

Come musicians and actors
who want more than they earn,
and you greedy producers
will too have to learn,
if we don’t like your media
we won’t pay in return,
and it will not ever be staging.
So the copy protection
shouldn’t be your concern,
for the times, they are a-changing.

(Sung to the tune of The Times They Are a-Changin‘)

Defiant.

After being taken offline by Swedish authorities in August this year, The Pirate Bay came back online with it’s head held high.  As far as I can gather, the ISP that hosts TPB stood to be fined a whopping $70,600 in fines if they didn’t pull the plug.  TPB came back with this statement shortly after coming back online; a re-hash of Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight On the Beaches” speech.

Make of it what you will.

We have, ourselves, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our Internets, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.

Even though large parts of Internets and many old and famous trackers have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Ifpi and all the odious apparatus of MPAA rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the ef-nets and darknets, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Internets, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the baywords.org, we shall fight on the /. and on the digg, we shall fight in the courts; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, the Internets or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the Anon Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in Cerf’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Signed;

The Pirate Bay Crew – Now until needed.

The Pirate Bay’s owners are pretty much renowned for their hardiness and resillience in the face of massive legal action from companies as large as the RIAA, the MPAA, Time Warner and Microsoft.

The letters from various companies demanding that their content be removed are available for all to see on their website and often you’ll find them almost laughing in the face of their adversaries, and rightly so.  For you to understand why TPB isn’t really in any violation of any sort of copyright law (especially in Sweden), you will need to know how the Bit Torrent network operates, but for all intents and purposes TPB as a site within itself is hosting a series of downloadable links and nothing more.

YO HO HO.

Oh dear he doesn't look so happy.

In the last few days since the Demos study was released showing that Pirates spend more on music per year than those who choose to source their music legally, discussion about Piracy has become popular on the Internet once more.  Now that Piracy has been well and truly thrust into the public eye it’s given people like me an opportunity to see and hear for myself what the average person thinks when it comes to Piracy.

What I have seen concerns me somewhat in that people don’t really seem to understand what Piracy actually is.  The average person who claims to be against Piracy and p2p sharing lumps it in with simple theft, something that angers me and just isn’t true.

  • Piracy is not theft.
  • Theft takes the original.
  • Piracy makes a copy.
  • Piracy is Piracy.

What this all boils down to is copyright law as it stands today.  Media is produced by an artist or a director and the rights to that content are owned by a single organisation, whether it be a record company or a film studio.  The current model is based on capitalism and the scarcity of content.  The analogy i tend to use when explaining this is of diamonds and water.  Diamonds are scarce and water is in abundance, so because the current market works on the basis of supply and demand, a vendor can sell a diamond for thousands of pounds and this is generally accepted by the people.  You wouldn’t think to sell a bottle of water for anything close to the price of diamonds because it is in abundance and so readily available.  No one in their right mind would pay £1000 for a litre of water but would happily spend that amount on a diamond.  So, in this respect the current system works.

However, when it comes to digitally produced content such as a film or a piece of music which can be reproduced ad infinitum, the current system crumbles.  Because the product is no longer scarce the justification for an album or a movie being sold for their current prices goes out of the window.  In the days of Vinyl and reel-to-reel where copying was an expensive and time-consuming practice, the system worked perfectly.  Today however, I’m almost certain that even the most novice of computer users can take a CD, store its contents in near-CD quality on their hard drive and host it on the Internet for the world to share.  At this point the copyrighting system crumbles and is obsolete.

When the RIAA and the MPCA tried to clamp down on this and make examples of people a couple of years back, fining downloaders hundreds of thousands of dollars for filesharing, the Pirate community and those in favour of free distribution of idigital content went up in arms.  Anti-piracy organisations the world over have tried to thwart filesharing and p2p activities by sharing hoax releases and monitoring known p2p and Bit Torrent ports, but time and again the Pirate community has managed to find ways around these methods.  Applications such as Peerguardian hide your computer’s personal information effectively making you invisible to anti-piracy organisations and can be freely downloaded from multiple websites in a matter of seconds.  Some websites even promote applications like these and guides to new Bit Torrent users often include links to apps like Peerguardian in efforts to protect the members of this ever-expanding community.  It certainly seems that the people will always find ways around even the most extreme methods employed by anti-piracy organisations.

Governments and copyright protectors need to understand that the current system absolutely must change.  In a time where more and more people are employing Piracy as a means to aquire content, we cannot stand idly by and let these organisations make criminals of us all.  I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t downloaded something through illegal methods, whether it be ripping a YouTube video or a program from the iPlayer, using Kazzaa or Limewire, Bit Torrent or even FTP and Newsgroup applications.  I am more than aware of the effect that digital reproduction and p2p has had on the music and film industry, but I am skeptical of the scale of its impact.  I also do not agree with the argument that “If there is no monetary gain from the production of artistic content, people will stop producing”.  As an avid musician myself, I am certainly not put off by the fact that I might not make as much money now as I would have, say 20 years ago.  For me the recognition and appreciation alone would be the greatest reward.  If anything, knowing that people were employing any method they could to listen to my music would fill me with an immense pride and a sense of great satisfaction.  I am aware that man cannot live off praise alone, but that’s not to say that my success in the music industry would not open other avenues of income.  Artists are sponsored by companies to use their equipment, paid to perform live in venues with sell out crowds and have their works used in film, television and advertising, but let’s not forget that through all of this, there will always be album sales.  Granted, the money made from album sales may not be as high as if the album had been released 20 years ago, but albums will still sell nonetheless.

Soulja Boy Tellem is an American rapper who made his fame through online portals Youtube and Myspace.  In an interview with Billboard in late December 2008 the rapper gives us an insight into his income.  Since becoming famous off the back of tracks such as Crank That (62,341,305 views as of writing) released in 2007, he’s gone on to much larger things.  Currently signed with the Interscope Records (part of the Universal group), his debut album (launched July 13, 2007) had sold in excess of 943,000 copies as of December 2008.  Crank That was the most downloaded track in 2007 according to Nielsen SoundScan.  His music may be utterly abysmal, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not a complete success.  Stories such as Soulja Boy’s really go to show that even in this eara of rife downloading it is still possible to make vast sums of money from the music industry in the face of Piracy in such an incredibly short space of time.  He’s even quoted as saying;

“Really, I don’t depend on royalty checks to make money.  Those only come but every six months, how I make most money is from shows.  I get up to $75,000 for each, and I might do up to 20 shows a month.”

Not every artist will make the money that this miserable excuse for a rapper has made, but there will be people whose success will come from their use of social media and the technologies that are so readily available.  Rapidshare and Megaupload make it incredibly easy for artists to upload EPs or albums and places such as Twitter, Myspace Music and Facebook offer an incredible advertising potential.  Merging the two means that artists can send messages to their entire fanbase containing links to either of the aforementioned sites, which their fans can then navigate to and access the music they enjoy so much.  This then means they have copies to pass onto everyone they know.  Potentially an infinite number of copies can be made onto almost any kind of digital writable media and distributed in an ad-hoc fashion, essentially free advertising through the free distribution of music.  This method alone will not pay the rent, but if this music’s good enough it will almost certainly open other avenues for monetary gain.

A friend of mine calls it a double-edged sword and I agree.  I would hate to think of the artists I enjoy halting their music production purely because they’re not making as much money as they used to (frankly, i would hope that the musicians I’m into would be above that), but I don’t think that Piracy is as big an issue as the authorities would lead you to believe.  Clearly from the case study above, people still talk with their wallets even in this day and age.  Artists will continue to make money if the people want to access their work, be it recorded or live in a venue for all to see.  I do not see Piracy as the death of the music industry, merely a wake up call to those in charge.  It is truly a sign of the times when all the music industry’s efforts to stop Piracy just aren’t working, and if you want to argue that they are?  Then I urge you to go to The Pirate bay and read the letters they’ve received from the RIAA, the MPAA and other conglomerate businesses threatening legal action, then go to their top 100 list and see what’s there for the taking.

Until the model changes artists and companies will continue to suffer.  Don’t blame the Pirates.  Blame the people who regulate and control your content.

Ready my ship, Captain!

It didn't stop you, though.  Did it?  You thieving bastard.

It didn't stop you, though. Did it? You thieving bastard.

The Internet is rife with piracy and it’s not going to change.  The RIAA, the PRS and all the Internet policing just don’t have enough pull to rid the Internet of torrents, p2p, Newsgroups, Limewire and all the millions of MSN file transfers that must happen daily.  We live in a society where music is in abundance and even the most obscure works can be found with by a persistent Googler with even basic knowledge of where to find what on the Internet.

In saying this, the aquisition of music through markets such as bleep.com, beatport, iTunes and Amazon is far simpler than trudging through twenty pages of Rapidsearch.  In less than 20 seconds I can open iTunes, find the track I’ve been humming all day, buy it and have it sent to my computer at blazing speed through my ultra-fast broadband connection.  All this for 70p?  Excellent!  The quality is good, the tracks are properly labeled and organised to keep even the most anal of music hoarders happy and the layout of the iTunes store is so wonderfully presented that it almost makes searching for new music effortless, even fun.

This isn’t to say that the pirate community doesn’t take care of it’s own.  There are, to my mind, several hundred private torrent trackers, sites and seed servers who take pride in the content they present to their userbase.  Torrent sites such as http://www.torrentech.org have very strict rules with it comes to uploading and presenting content for the community.

When creating torrents, I’ll always make sure that the auality is at the very least 192 CBR mp3 at 44,100 khz and in true stereo.  If it’s an ultra special release or something I hold very dearly, I’ll almost always sacrifice my upload bandwidth and distribute the FLAC release.  The album art is always contained, the MP3 tags are always complete and there’s no playlist information.  Ever.  M3u files are the work of satan, as I’m sure every iTunes user will agree.

The pirate community should be making these standards necessary across the board, not just on a few private trackers.  There are written and globally understood rules and regulations on good behaviour and practice for p2p participants and torrent downloaders.  Seed what you reap was the motto I was told right from the very beginning.  “As long as your download ratio is 1:1, you’re alright” said the wise man who first introduced me to the world of piracy, and I’ve applied this practice into every aspect of my online activities.

So if I’m so careful when I’m distributing content, why can’t everyone else take the same level of care?  Surely we want to be showing corporations that the quality of our free content is on par with or better than the music they release, not making laughable rips of excellent music.  Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it needs to be sub-standard in every aspect.  Cheap and cheerful isn’t what we’re looking for here, and if you’ve already gone through the hassle of making and uploading your torrent to a tracker, you might as well make the extra effort to make sure it’s a torrent you can be proud of.  This will grow the community and force record companies and music corporate enteties to re-write their copyright standards.

PROTIPS

  1. Encode your music properly – anything over 160 CBR is always welcome.
  2. Sort your ID3 tags.  It’s a pain in the arse having to go through every track in a discography download and fix everything yourself.
  3. M3u files – Don’t include them.  We’ll make them ourselves in Winamp later should we need them.
  4. Don’t password protect your RAR files.  It’s just stupid.
  5. Include album art.  It’s like the cherry on top.
  6. Use a respectable tracker.  There are plenty of them around and it means that people like me don’t have to trawl for an hour’s worth of Google to find that Autechre EP released in 1992 where only 250 of them were ever made.
  7. Seed your own torrents for at least a week after the first upload – it’s the done thing and it means that more and more will be encouraged to seed.

Oh, and for those of you who would like it confirmed, yes – I download illegally.