Friday, 20 February 2015

Rage against the hyprocrisy machine

Something that most people don't realise/don't think about when they engage in illegal file-sharing is that in doing so, someone, somewhere, is profiting from copyrighted media that they are not legally or morally entitled to.

Yes, when you download a song or album from a band you yourself are not making money off of it: you are saving money from not buying it. But, someone else is often making money from this transaction. Like the guys from The Pirate Bay, for example. And it's not just a few pennies here and there.

Notably, research highlights that your common garden digital pirate who downloads copyrighted media finds that piracy-for-profit is 'wrong'. But, in downloading music or movies, you are enabling this very action. You are, as they say, part of the problem.

With this in mind, I was struck by a video I found on YouTube where someone compiled songs from Rage Against The Machine into a 'greatest hits compilation'. Rage Against The Machine don't have a greatest hits compilation.

Now, there are countless such videos on YouTube, but in this one, the YouTube user inserted (lots of) advertisements in the video. He or she is actively trying to make money from copyrighted works they had absolutely no involvement in, and out in the open. Many users have, quite rightly, expressed fierce criticism over this bold move.

It's indicative of a general lack of respect for copyright laws, and this extends to Google themselves (who own YouTube).

It also illustrates that: a) so-called 'pirates' are not one unanimous group with a collective identity; and b) when piracy-for-profit is made explicit, this becomes clearer.

Crimes which are perceived as victimless tend to encourage the perpetrators to not consider themselves as criminals. And until concrete evidence is brought forward that digital piracy poses a real economic threat to the creative industries, digital piracy will continue to be thought of as a victimless crime. And digital pirates themselves will not think of themselves as criminals.

For now, remember that digital piracy makes criminals out of someone. Every time. You might not care about it, but it is important to acknowledge that this is true.


  1. Well, people don't act according to their politics, they act according to their motives. That should be plain. It's easier to take a moral high ground socially and out in the open when condemning RATM ad piracy on YouTube, yet be hypocritical when it suits them when downloading their albums on BitTorrent. And on other occasions you have people openly boasting about their BitTorrent downloading.

    These are all the signs of a law that is impossible to enforce. What good is killing the supply, e.g. MegaUpload, if the demand does not disappear? Anyone who has studied the insanity that is the war on drugs for one moment knows that demand causes supply and not the other way around, which is why such a war can never be won, and will just lead to misery, lack of regulation and tax avoidance. Sure, you might get a blip of a drop in the illegal goods after you raid the odd drug sites here and there, and you might have commissioned studies trying to present such short term effects as long term for political points scoring. But market vacuums fill pretty quickly whether that market is white or black.

    I mean I've only just stumbled upon these stats:

    And they are taking the piss.

    That's millions of dollars, and bear in mind that's only the piracy we are aware of. How, exactly, do you get rid of BitTorrent tracker files from the web that are only a few MBs in size? You don't. It surely can't be the case that taking down pirate sites does a single thing. On the contrary! There must be many criminals out there BEGGING for the big pirate sites to be taken down so that they can scramble for all the displaced traffic! They just bide their time!

    How do you stop China in all its piracy glory? 80% global piracy, where internet access is NOT as a common utility as it is in the West. Most of the movie piracy happens via DVDs in that area.

    The simplest explanation is that copyright is a wild goose chase and only has empty promises for the artist. If the artist wants to put his foot down and set a price completely at his liberty, the only real way to do it is through assurance contracts like Patreon and Kickstarter.

    "$10,000,000 for this big budget movie or it doesn't happen." The simplest explanation is the best one.

    1. Hi James, thanks for getting in touch, and for that link.

      It's an interesting time, and I'm not sure where things are going. Consider that: a) what works best in commercial terms for musicians example varies a lot, i.e., no one way of doing business is best; and b) consumers do not have one set of desires or wants anymore.

      Where does copyright fit then? One can only assume some changes in the law would benefit, and this has of course been the suggestion from high profile figures including Ian Hargreaves who investigated the need for copyright reform in UK as the PM's copyright advisor.

      Digital piracy can't ever be stopped, all you can do is try and minimise it to a more manageable level, as it was before the rise in broadband internet penetration.

      All signs look as though this is happening, but slowly.