Friday, April 17, 2009

Conflating free speech with free beer

The defendants in the Pirate Bay case have been found guilty and sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay 3,6 million in damages to copyright holders.

The Entertainment industry has been doing reasonably well in courts of law; but in the court of public opinion it has been a disaster. Ever since Nabster the industry has been playing whack a mole with successive file sharing services. For their part the file sharing services, for reasons best known to themselves, have been content to play mole.

Supporters of Pirate Bay seem to have confused free speech with free beer. I particularly recommend their agit-prop movie, Steal this Film. In the film they confuse themselves with fifteenth century printers defying local censors. In reality they are enabling the theft popular movies that corporations spent millions of dollars creating. In their movie they compare themselves to the French revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille; storming the local beer brewery would be closer to the mark.

From the very first entertainment industry trade groups have mishandled the file sharing phenomenon. File sharing is a useful technology that has a legitimate business model. Rather than embracing it and offering customers a legitimate option, the entertainment industry has sought to stamp it out.

Much of the file sharing community are digital looters, people who think that simply because they can take film or music, that makes it right, even noble. The industry needs to communicate to the public that just as physical looters make it impossible to live everyday life, digital looters present a problem to the cyber public and there is a common interest in suppressing illegal file sharing. But the litigious thud and blunder tactics of the industry have been a PR nightmare and served to transform morally pretentious thieves into folk heros.

The industry has also destroyed whatever moral authority it had with its law for me but not for thee approach to the world. I refer of course to Sony’s rootkit disaster, the MPAA email case, and most notoriously, the NDS Piracy case. Corporations who engage in piracy cannot reasonably expect the general public to takes their claims of intellectual property rights seriously.

The industry must:
  • adapt its business model to offer customers product in the medium the public prefers
  • treat its customers like customers rather than criminal suspects
  • engage the public on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect
  • start to employ ridicule as effectively as John Stewart
  • always set a proper example by showing unfailing respect for the private property of others


Bernard said...

Copyright infringement isn't theft. It isn't piracy, except through a very disingenuous bit of legalistic linguistic trickery. It isn't looting, murder, or mayhem. It's copyright infringement and, while it is a crime, no valid public purpose is served by pretending otherwise. Copyright does serve the public need and laws protecting it should be enforced... though those laws should also be reasonable, which is not the case at the moment. The RIAA, MPAA, and other enforcement arms of the content cartel haven't sacrificed moral standing through their own infringing activities. They've sacrificed it by spending a century trying to twist language so as to move into the private sphere rights long held by the public.

david said...

Looters? Hah. If real-life looters didn't smash shop windows and steal goods, but rather walked past the windows of art shops and took photographs of the paintings, your analogy might be a little closer to the mark.

E-mannen said...

"In reality they are enabling the theft popular movies"
*MEEP* Wrong! Copying isn't theft!
. . .so there I stopped reading.
Get your propaganda right if you want to play with us pirates please!

Anonymous said...

Enforcing copyright requires monitoring all communication. I don't think copyright has any place in a free society.