When referring to the so-called piracy menace, the entertainment industries love to draw beautifully clear battle lines.
On one side sit the music and movie creatives, leaking blood, sweat and tears over their latest masterpieces. The toils of their labor will bring joy and happiness to millions while providing much-needed employment and a positive effect on the economy. If you’re looking to join a team of damn fine upstanding good guys, then this is the side to be on.
If, however, you prefer the forces of darkness and intend to steal, thieve and defraud your way through the Internet, look no further than the opposing team. These scummy parasites contribute nothing, but instead munch their way through endless piles of media without a single thought for anyone but themselves. They never spend their money and are ruining the entertainment industries and the economy bit by bit, each and every time they connect to the Internet.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that when the piracy ‘problem’ is defined like this, with good on one side and bad on the other, reaching a compromise is unlikely. In reality the situation should be explained in much broader terms, to encompass the reality of the file-sharing landscape and to acknowledge the status of the majority in the middle.
Let’s not delude ourselves. There are people out there who won’t pay for any media, literally none whatsoever. If it’s not nailed down it’s getting downloaded. They won’t even pay for their cable TV and if a cloned modem or other hacked box is available, they aren’t paying for Internet access either.
Equally, there are some crazy people in the entertainment industries who think that some day it will be possible, given enough force, aggression, technical measures and political pressure, to force everyone to pay for every single last piece of media, not just once, but time and again.
Given these opposing standpoints with a veritable Grand Canyon between them, it’s little wonder that the file-sharing problem has turned into a war. But, in common with all wars, there are millions caught up in the middle who while tending to take sides, neither want nor deserve to be subjected to a massively polarized situation brought on by the feuding and unmoving factions on either side.
The other reality is that, to a greater or lesser extent, the millions stuck in the middle of this war are all pirates to some degree. It’s very difficult to go about our daily business without infringing someone’s rights in today’s environment. Many millions will also download music and a movie here and there, or take the opportunity to grab a TV show from BitTorrent that aired at an inconvenient time or in another country.
But these very same people buy and finance media too. They are consumers of regular TV, they go to the movies and pay for music in a dozen different forms, they go to concerts, buy products from ads with the latest Beyonce track in the background and make straight purchases from iTunes. They buy DVDs, they buy software, they buy magazines and they buy books.
Last year someone helping with one of my articles commented “you must be the biggest pirates in the world at TorrentFreak”, and then responded with surprise when I revealed how much I spent on all sorts of media and entertainment in the previous 12 months. Just because people have the means to pirate, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they do.
Nevertheless, for those who supplement their paid purchases with a visit to The Pirate Bay once in a while, the entertainment industries’ uncompromising stance means that they too are labeled in terms close to that of sub-human scum, but as millions of us know the piracy battle lines are nowhere near as clear cut as the industry lobbyists would have governments believe.
But we aren’t on the brink of disaster either. As long as the overwhelming masses continue to understand that they can’t pirate everything all of the time and that a reasonable amount of money has to be made on media in order for it to exist, things will be just fine.
However, if the entertainment industries continue with their current position – that they are absolutely entitled to their untold billions at any cost, that there is no middle ground, that all file-sharers are simply evil and should expect their activities to be monitored, throttled and legislated against – they should expect fewer moderates and more extremists in the future.
Peace lies in the middle with the moderates being treated as such, but if the extremists on both sides have their way we will all be dragged into the persistent fighting of a war that simply cannot be won.