Kristian Lyngstøl's Blog

The problem with piracy

Posted on 2010-01-03

If you are paying attention to the news, you will be aware of the rising piracy-problem. International authoroties have tried desperately to stop the piracy, but so far little has helped. It has had large economic impacts, both in stolen goods and in the cost of the war on piracy.

As it turns out, the core of the prolem lies in the nature of the piracy: Piracy is taking place because the people feel that there is little to loose. The environment in which the piracy takes place is one where the pirates and the community around them is constantly bullied and given little hope of improvement. The situation has only gotten worse over the years, and the efforts to stop the piracy is ultimately focused on enforcing the existing laws instead of solving the problems of the society. And while authoroties might be able to quench the piracy, it comes at a cost too: The society is again left to improve itself without any help real from the outside because the rest of the world is happy with the situation as it is and doesn't want to stir things up.

For those who haven't been paying attention to the news, I'm talking about Somalia, a country that was ranked 161st on UNs list of roughly 180 countries based on it's "human development index". That is, the last time it was included in the ranking, which was in 2001.

So called illegal file sharing and the war on sharing has many similarities with the story above. Beyond the obvious, there's insistance on calling both pirates and file sharers for immoral outcasts of society that only prey on their surroundings and doesn't give anything back. If it could be linked to terrorists; even better. And yes, according to the propaganda-movie at the end of my "House MD" dvd, file sharing funds terrorism. I'm not entirely sure how, but hey, I bet it's a good argument. The reality is - of course - different. It also states that it costs jobs.... well... isn't that a GOOD thing for me? I don't want to pay a bunch of guys for sitting around doing nothing. The distribution networks of today is terribly inefficient. The concept of being "out of stock" should've gone away with the invention of the DVD. And the idea that it costs jobs is also strange, because all the propaganda-makers and lawyers wouldn't have jobs if it wasn't for the war on sharing.

There is one big difference: Piracy is carried out by means of violence. Pirates steal actual goods. File sharing doesn't actually have any material costs, nor is it by any conclusive and through research possible to say that it even reduces sales. In fact, I'm sure I'm not the only one who suspect that file sharing increases sales. I own over 350 dvds and blueray movies now. I bought several of them after I had seen them. Why? Two reasons: 1. Because it's right. 2. Because I liked the movie.

An other difference is that the somali pirates struggle to improve the conditions of a geographicly limited society, whereas file sharers operate in a global society. All in all it's not that different, though: File sherers don't get any real out-side help either, and are always on the defensive, regardless of how they "fight". It is hard for outsiders to understand the society that the pirates live in, just as it's hard for someone who wasn't brought up in the digital age to understand how wrong the war against file sharing feels.

I do not condone piracy. But I can understand why it's taking place and I belive it's extermely cynical to use brute force to stop it without any hint of a public debate as to the soiciological conditions that allowed it in the first place. In the same way that I don't like the idea of breaching copyrights through illegal file sharing, but I think it's extermely cynical - and naive - to think that the real problem can be stopped by means of authority, laws and technology created to maintain the status quo in an ever-changing global class struggle.

It's also very hard to talk openly about illegal file sharing: Admitting the act is difficult because it's illegal. So who's to speak for the file sharers? What we need, is asylum for file sharers to enable a proper public debate..... But that'll never happen.

Oh, and let's quit calling it "piracy" when we mean one of or all of: - Copying a movie to your friend - Sharing a movie to strangers on the internet - Buying an obviously illegaly copied movie on the streets of some foreign country (this you should never do - ever. Get it on the net instead, since this really is for-profit crime) - Downloading a movie or series off the net because it's not available where you live.

In the end, this is what I want: - Movies and music - The ability to pay for said movies and music - Market models designed around current technology - NOT technology designed around and designed to enforce the current market model (ie: DRM) - Freedom - Fairness

If you can sell 100 copies of the same movies for one tenth of the price you could sell ten movies for (distribution costs included) then why not do it? That's what copyright is for: Enabling the public to get access to professional copyrighted works. It is not to protect the thoughts of the copyright holder. You have a skull to protect your intellectual property, and we have laws against bashing your skull in. And if you need technology to protect your intellectual property, then wear a god damned helmet. In the mean time, I don't use hemlets to protect from robbers, so don't force a helmet onto my blyeray disc movies.

I could go on and on with this rhetoric and endless digressions to underline the point... But what's the point.... Money talks, after all, but not my money, it seems.