This is a very long post with very strong and unwavering opinions. It has nothing to do with WoW. Read at your own risk.
Some of you are probably aware that there was a trial involving some of the people behind The Pirate Bay. These people were convicted, fined $900k, and are to serve a year in prison for their despicable crimes.
Yes, you read right. Providing the means with which to pirate files is a crime worse than rape.
To summarize in a quick and dirty fashion: “the industry” (essentially the companies and other businesses) for music, games, TV, movies, etc, don’t respond well to seeing their product distributed to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, for absolutely free.
So they try to stop it. Branding the people behind it as criminals, and trying them as such, all in a vain effort to preserve their own paycheques.
And vain it is.
Anyone remember the ’80’s, when the music industry flipped out over people copying and distributing cassette tapes? Remember how there was this huge panic about how this would destroy the whole music industry? Remember how that never happened?
The “industry” is having a similar freak-out now. After all, it doesn’t control things like torrents, sites like the Pirate Bay, and it never will. This is alarming to the industry; after all, everyone except the artists actually making the content stands to lose a lot of money if the physical distribution market fails.
Thus, the industry spends piles and piles of cash fighting a war it cannot win.
To be blunt, “file sharing” has been going on for as long as there have been things to share.
The first book ever purchased from a store, was read by more people than just the person who bought it.
The first DVD ever sold at Wal-Mart was watched by far more people than the single person who purchased it.
When I bought Shaun of the Dead and brought it to a birthday party, no less than sixteen people got to watch for the price of one. None of them had purchased the movie.
Way back when I bought Super Marios Bros for the SNES, I most certainly was not the only person who played it. Sometimes friends came over and played it, sometimes I loaned it to friends. I eventually gave it away. Or sold it for five bucks. I can’t remember which.
A library shares literally hundreds of thousands of books to anyone willing to walk in and pick one up off the shelves.
“But you need to buy a library card at [insert local library here]!”
Oh, so now the library is profiting off the work of others? Those damn dirty pirates!
I’m not trying to justify the mass download of stuff that normally has to be paid for. I am merely pointing out that getting information either for free, or vastly cheaper than it’s initial cost, isn’t exactly a new idea. This has been going on a very long time.
Rewind back in time. The first Harry Potter book hits the shelves. Someone buys it, reads it, says “hey, this is awesome!” and loans it to all of his friends. He doesn’t see an issue with this, and none of his friends do.
Nobody labeled him a pirate for distributing the work of JK Rowling to his friends for free, none of his friends were labeled a pirate for reading a book they hadn’t purchased.
Now, we have the internet and torrent technology. Nothing has changed in this mindset. Nothing at all.
Ten years ago, there was nothing wrong with a friend of mine giving me one of his CD’s so I could take it home and listen to it.
Now, if he does the same thing via the internet, he is a disgusting pirate deserving of jail time and massive fines.
“But it’s not the same thing!” you say.
Well, Warner Brothers, Sony, the RIAA, EMI, Fox, Activision Blizzard and EA Games all disagree with you, just to name a small handful.
Free Flow of Info
The internet has added a whole new dimension to the sharing of information.
You need something, you boot up the internet, there it is.
Need to find out how much a loaf of bread is in Iceland? It takes mere seconds to know that.
Wanna listen to that song on the radio again? Google some of the lyrics you remember, find the song title, plug it into Youtube, and listen to your heart’s content.
That’s how the internet works. You want something, you go get it. You do it your way, you don’t have to consume any content you don’t want, you don’t have to deal with anything except the stuff you want to deal with.
You don’t have to deal with advertisements. You don’t have to deal with commercial breaks. You don’t have to suffer through horrendous DRM. You don’t have to pay exorbitant prices because the numerous middle-men need their share of the cut.
To repeat, this is how the internet works. The industry can try as hard as it wants to fight this, they cannot win.
There is no off switch. A site can put up a video, a company can order a “cease and desist” to get rid of it, and it will accomplish nothing. If the site actually does comply, then other sites will host it instead. And this time these sites will be hosted in Thailand where the legal system can’t touch them.
The sooner the industry stops trying to fight the internet, the better.
To put it in the bluntest way possible, the pirates, the filesharers, “my generation”, are going to win this war, if only for one reason only: we’re going to live longer.
The people behind these attempts to hold the internet in check are going to die off before we do. A simple war of attrition that their side is incapable of winning.
All the industry can do is encourage us to continue pirating. That’s all they’ve accomplished so far in their efforts to stop file-sharing.
Take DRM, for instance. “Digital Rights Management”. An ultimately pointless effort by large companies to protect their products from being pirated. DRM is cracked so swiftly by pirates that it’s possible to get games, hassle free, on the internet before they’re even released commercially (Spore).
DRM does nothing to stop pirating. It doesn’t even slow it down. All it does is treat legitimate customers like criminals, driving them away to other venues that don’t endlessly hassle them.
Such as pirating.
I don’t have a problem with paying for a game. I don’t have an issue with forking over fifty bucks for a game.
What I have a problem with is a single player game that requires on-line activation. I have a problem with a game that scans my computer, and refuses to run if I have “suspicious” software running*, or even installed. I have a problem with a game that has limited installs.
*Apparently Winamp is eeevil pirating software.
I have a problem with entertainment that restricts how and when I consume it, and charge me through the nose for the honour.
Let’s take Sony for instance.
A long time ago, I bought a Sony mp3 player. It was cheap, I needed something portable to replace my Sony discman that had served me very well for years.
I was a little confused that I could only load music files to my mp3 via SonicStage. I couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t recongize, say, an actual mp3 file. I had to import everything into SonicStage (and thus have it in the correct, DRM-laden format) before I could listen to it.
Imagine my utter horror when, years later, I had a new computer and attempted to move my music collection from my player onto the new computer.
Surprise, surprise. Naturally, I couldn’t access any of the files without SonicStage, which I had long ago figured out was a terrible program.
So I gritted my teeth, installed a piece of shit program, and moved my files from my player onto the new computer.
Or at least, I thought that’s what would happen.
Instead, SonicStage gave me the rather cryptic message that “this file cannot be opened”. Huh. Strange. It’s a SONY file, from a SONY mp3 player, and I’m trying to move it onto a SONY program.
Roughly 50 seconds on the internet later, and I discovered, to my utter horror, that my ENTIRE music collection was only accessible on my old computer. I cannot play them, edit them, rename them, or even access them in any conceivable way, except on the original computer.
The old computer, the only computer in the entirety of existence that can access those files, is long gone. The CD’s slowly built up over a decade of collecting music have long since been lost, sold, or otherwise destroyed.
My entire music collection. Gone. Ten fucking years of music, completely destroyed by DRM.
I had two options. Pay for every CD I’ve bought in the last ten years, again, if I can even find them, or go online and download them all.
Take a wild guess as to which method I chose.
Would you buy a car that only let you park in four locations, immediately destroying it’s own engine if you tried to park in a fifth spot? No? Then why the hell would you buy a game that does the same thing?
“Way of the Future”
Internet distribution is the way of the future, whether people pay or get it for free. Attempting to preserve “brick and mortar” sales by repressing the alternative is a lot like trying to keep Newspapers alive.
It’s a dying, outdated technology. Why can’t it just retire gracefully? Why the efforts to force the poor thing to continue limping along way past it’s expiration date? It’s obsolete, stop throwing money at it.
The horse and buggy died out pretty quick once the motor vehicle became the superior method. Why the resistance now?
Online distribution provides many benefits. First, it’s ridiculously convenient, for both creators and consumers. Second, the method cuts out a HUGE amount of middle-men that drive up the cost in brick and mortar methods.
There is no employee at Gamestop to pay. Hell, there isn’t even a Gamestop building and all of it’s associated maintenance costs. There is no truck to drive the game to the store, no truck driver to pay, no gas that needs to be burned.
The little plastic box the game comes in need never be built, the CD doesn’t need to be made, no paper needs to be used to make the instruction booklet. A company to distribute the game and produce it doesn’t even need to exist!
Instead, the creators of the game can offer it digitally. The only cost to them is keeping servers running, and the manpower they put into it in the first place.
To be blunt, this means that all of the money made from sales goes directly to the guys who made the game. Nobody else takes a cut of the cash, because no one else exists to take a cut.
Anyone notice how Radiohead made millions of dollars by offering their music for free?
I’m honestly shocked that “the industry” didn’t see this coming. We, as people, do not want to be hassled. We do not want to put up with shit.
Pushing endless amounts of crap on the customers, treating them like rotten criminals and forcing them to jump through ludicrous hoops is not going to ingratiate yourself to them. It’s going to drive them away. They are going to seek an alternative that doesn’t suck.
For instance, I will never use a sony music player ever again. That whole DRM fiasco has made me decide that their company is no longer deserving of my money.
“But the new players are DRM free!”
So? Sony had their chance, they blew it.
And honestly, in the whole grand scheme of things, the loss of a single customer isn’t going to bother them. That’s fine, I don’t expect them to care. I’m not avoiding their products out of some sense of petty revenge. I’m not going to go around and tell all my friends not to buy Sony. It’s a waste of my time and effort.
It’s simple. I bought a Sony product, Sony fucked me, so I’m not going to use Sony anymore. There’s nothing more complex to it.
Screw customers around long enough, and they will cease to be your customers.
Back to the pirate movement.
I’ve heard accusations and claims that are fraught with stupidity leveled against the community.
Things like “pirating will cause the industry to collapse, dooming the artists you purport to support into destitution.”
Illogical thinking number one: creating music and making money from music requires labels to publish this music.
This is like saying you need a car dealership to sell a vehicle, or a movie theatre to sell movies.
If the industry collapses… so what? I’m pretty sure the Zeppelin industry took a pretty hard hit in 1937. The world of “traveling by air” got along just fine without it.
“Well, if you think stealing is ok, then why don’t you try doing something creative in your life and see how you feel when thousands download it and you don’t see a nickel?”
Illogical thinking number two: assuming that people automatically want to make money from their ideas.
This, I have found, is the biggest disconnect between the old generation and the new one. The old one is focused on making money. The new one is not.
This, I think, is a byproduct of two things. The new generation has grown up in the age of the internet, the age of free dissemination of information, where needing money for things is merely an unfortunate by-product of living in a capitalist society.
Secondly, the new generation has yet to, in most cases, feel the crunch of actually having to provide for others. My dad, for instance, informed his sister of my blog and the success it’s garnering despite being focused on a “stupid game”. She says “Oh, well, I hope he makes lots of money!”
Or, for instance, when I showed off Firefox and all it’s funky addons to my mom. I crowed about how it’s so much better than Internet Explorer, and she asks “How do they make money if it’s for free?” to which I responded with a blank and confused stare.
Money isn’t a consideration.
This is a generation that is primarily concerned with doing what they want to do, what they consider fun, what they love doing. Making money from it would be nice, but even if they made nothing, they would continue doing it without a second thought.
This is a generation that said “man, IE is crap. I wish there was something better” and then made something better. This is a generation that got fed up with corporate bullshit, so we made our own, better stuff and offered it for free.
You think Fimlys makes money from doing the Twisted Nether Blogcast? You think I make money from writing this blog? Of course not. Then why do we do it?
Because we like to. We want to.
So to answer your question: here you go. I’ve spent over a year on this blog. Thousands of hours. Thousands of people visit here and read my content every day!
And you know what? It’s awesome.
See that Creative Commons license on the side there? Only reason that exists is because a “how to blog” site said it would be a good idea to have it there, and I’ve been too lazy to get rid of it.
Wanna take one of my posts and publish it as your own? Go right ahead, I probably won’t even notice, and if I do I won’t care. As far as I’m concerned, most of this stuff technically belongs to Blizzard anyways.
Sorry to inflict all of this on you, let’s finish off with the actual suit against The Pirate Bay.
As a quick summary:
Three men, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Peter Sunde, who run the site, and Carl Lundström, who sold services to the website were accused by the Swedish government of “promoting other people’s infringements of copyright laws”.
The plaintiff’s argument is basically that The Pirate Bay gives its users access to copyrighted material, and therefore the webmasters are responsible for aiding and abetting copyright infringement.
Following this logic, Chrysler is responsible for deaths from drunk driving, Nobel is a serial killer because he found a way to stabilize nitro-glycerine, and Microsoft is guilty of distributing child pornography.