Ok, the title is a just a bit extreme. It is a riff on a 1987 B movie entitled “Surf Nazis Must Die“. But when you read what is going on, you might agree that it captures the spirit of the moment. Read on!
Here is the latest news. The High Court in the UK has ordered British ISP’s to block access to Pirate Bay for Uk users. BBC reports. Wired Magazine reports as well. What is going on? Well, Pirate Bay has stuck its thumb in the eye of corporate interests whose business models rely on IP royalties. It boldly claims that these interests should not dictate what is “normal” with respect to sharing web content. It is not surprising, therefore, that those corporate interests have kicked back. They are determined to brand this attitude as “fringe” and better yet, “totally illegal, dude”. This is a fight that they do not want to lose.
It is not a new fight. To the contrary, the UK High Court ruling is just the latest chapter. But is Pirate Bay and file sharing in general more fringe or less fringe than it was before? It is hard to find evidence that sharing is more fringe. Piracy appears to be lower in France after their three strikes law was enacted. But it would not surprise if French file sharers simply have found better ways to go undetected. And Pirate Bay itself chugs along very nicely even though its leaders face jail time. It is one of the most popular sites in the world. Moreover, now a political party, called the “Pirate Party” has emerged that takes up the cause of sharing. You can get a sense of their “civil liberties” message from Rick Falkvinge’s TED video. And the Pirate Party is growing in Europe.
My sense is that this conflict will heat up. The IP owners are not about to embrace sharing. So what to do? They can pray that clever entrepreneurs will find new platforms that get people to pay for streaming instead of sharing (like ITunes and Netflix). But I think these will disappoint parties hoping to end sharing. Sure, a lot of folks will pay for streaming instead of buying CD’s and DVD’s. But that is not necessarily a substitute for sharing — as long as availability is limited and prices are high. So the IP rights crowd will likely schedule more appointments with their lawyers and lobbyists, pay lots of fees and demand tougher laws and more effective litigation strategies. And they will do it “in the name of starving artists” like … err … Beyonce. From the Wired article
Geoff Taylor, the British Recorded Music Industry chief executive, said The Pirate Bay, which makes money via advertising, lines “their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them.”
He left out that pirates also don’t pay the various middlemen that keep content scarce and expensive. But back to the point. Will this “get tough” strategy work? It will certainly work for the lawyers and lobbyists. But for the rest of us? Well, I am not so sure. This all may turn out to be just a rear guard action if Larry Lessig is right that our kids see remix differently than we do.
FOLLOW - Steve Kettman comments on the recent electoral success of the German Pirate Party. His main point is that the German Pirates use the internet to break down the “disconnect” between average young persons and party positions. You might keep that phrase in mind - “breaking down the disconnect”.