Yesterday’s news about the clowns at The Pirate Bay being found guilty should come as no surprise. Justice has been done. Sure, many will make hair-splitting arguments about how they didn’t break the law (the letter of the law), but to me it is the spirit of the law that has been upheld (although perhaps not for long if they win their appeal).
What they’ve done is built a service that allows you to take an ‘experience’ (eg watching a movie) that you are legally required to pay for, and get it without paying. In the spirit of the law, that’s wrong. So, The Pirate Bay is wrong.
But here’s the bigger question for me. Should laws be changed to allow prosecution of companies who disrespect their customers? Take media companies who persist in locking down distribution channels as an example.
The frustrations of being disrespected as a customer are common. Here’s a few examples:
- There’s a TV show or movie I want to watch. I can buy it on Amazon, but only if I live in the US
- There’s an audio book I want to buy but it is not available outside the US, even though the book is
- I want to watch Hulu but they can’t stream outside the US
- There’s a new movie showing in the US but it won’t open here until next month
- There’s an alternate version of the movie but I can’t get here because they are only selling the theatrical release here
- There’s a new Xbox or PC game released in the US but not available here until next week
The rise of piracy
Whilst piracy has always thrived as a way of avoiding payment, I suspect much of its surge in the last 3-5 years has been due to the need for instant gratification. Consumers want the content, and they want it now. And they’re usually happy to pay for it as anyone who has experienced the following will attest:
Technology is an enabler, and it is now simple to enable access to anything, anytime, anywhere.
Thus, you have consumer demand. And you have technology to meet that demand.
What possible reason could there be for blocking it anymore? Especially considering it is more difficult and requires more complex technology in order to block the access.
It’s understandable then, that when confronted with barriers to accessing content legally, consumers find other means. The easiest path being piracy. Jump on a torrent site and download what you want to watch/listen to/play/etc.
The media companies have their reasons (outdated copyright and distribution deals are the usual patsy), but surely they realise the angst they create.
So why persist? Is it just a case of Old habits die hard, and no amount of trying to convince them they are actually losing revenue will change their minds.
What if we could take legal action against the media companies for their attitude. What if we could argue that their approach is actually an abuse of technology. What if we could prove that their outdated practices are actually degrading society. What if we could prove that the rise of piracy and the associated illegal practices is a direct result of the media companies and their distribution policies? Should our laws be changed even?
Sadly, I doubt it would make a difference. After all, the claim would be likened to consumers suing a book store just because it was closed at night. It’d never fly.
It’s a shame really. The giant media companies should be embracing technology with vision and initiative, not persecuting the response to their lack thereof. What a wasted opportunity.
The obvious response
So what should consumers do?
Yes, we could perhaps take the attitude that downloading music should be declared legal, and then progress it to other formats, but there little chance that will be happening anytime soon.
I suspect we are left with little choice…
Which is why, for me, piracy keeps getting more attractive.