Press Starts to Doubt Anti-Piracy Propaganda Machine

Opinion

The anti-piracy lobby group AFACT just championed a study which claims that nearly all of the popular files on BitTorrent point to infringing material. Although the study in question is probably not far off, the press-release of the anti-piracy group has been met with more doubt than ever before. Slowly journalists are starting to reflect on the ongoing propaganda stream from anti-piracy outfits, and some are even brave enough to call them out on it.

bittorrentLast week the MPAA-supported lobby group AFACT released a study claiming that 72 percent of people would stop downloading infringing content if their Internet provider warned them.

The results claimed to support the effectiveness of a 3-strikes system for copyright infringers, but those who took a closer look saw that this was not the case.

As we pointed out, the results could also show that none of the current file-sharers would be deterred, as the question was also answered by the 78 percent of people who don’t even use file-sharing software.

The press release was nothing more that a cheap and misleading marketing stunt and it’s tricks like this that are causing the anti-piracy lobby to lose credibility at a rapid pace.

Just a few hours ago AFACT came out with another press release. This time they plug the results of a study they appear to be unrelated to, conducted by the University of Ballarat’s Internet Commerce Security Laboratory (ICSL). These are the same researchers who released some rather incompetent reports in the past, but their latest study shows signs of improvement.

As AFACT is happy to point out, the researchers conclude that 97.2 percent of the most popular files on BitTorrent are infringing (and that a lot are faked). Although this conclusion is probably not too far off, not all journalists are eager to pick it up as some are starting to see that AFACT has a habit of twisting the truth.

In a piece titled “Fooling some of the media, some of the time,” Canberra Times journalist Myles Peterson explains his concerns.

When Peterson received the three-strikes study press release last week he couldn’t help but notice that News Corp newspapers received the details before ‘regular’ journalists did. Yes indeed, that is the same News Corp organization that is a partner of anti-piracy groups such as IPAF, DEAA and AFACT.

“Last Monday, The Australian ran a full-court press in print and online dubbed ‘Piracy, the disease that’s crippling our creative industries’, comprising a number of articles from various angles, all attacking the scourge of online file sharing. Articles also appeared in News Corp tabloids The Adelaide Advertiser and The Daily Telegraph,” Peterson writes.

“That’s odd, I thought. The avalanche of coverage seemed to disproportionately reference the new study. Would a media outlet co-operate with a lobby group to generate mass coverage of a topic, I wondered.”

While following up on the study, Petersen noticed that various Australian anti-piracy outfits are conveniently sharing personnel. This, added with the recent Wikileaks revelation that the MPAA is the driving force behind these groups, lead to further doubts. They were only heightened when the obvious flaws in the ‘independent’ study were pointed out by us.

Using journalists in a propaganda war orchestrated by foreign companies wasn’t a very pleasant thought to Petersen.

“The story behind the stories, both those that appeared in News Corp media and TorrentFreak’s balancing rebuttal, stayed with me, as did a series of worrying questions. Are AFACT, the DEAA and IPAF being co-ordinated by the same group of people? Are these people being directed by the Motion Picture Association of America, as the WikiLeaks cable suggested? ” he writes.

“What stuck with me most was a similar concern to one uttered recently by Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown. Did a group of journalists put together a press campaign based on a biased study supplied by a lobby group that represents their own employer?”

And if that’s not bad enough, in a few days the anti-piracy outfits have a meeting at the Federal General Attorney’s office to push their agenda at the highest level. The fear is that this talk will be far from balanced, and we can only hope that the hosts will be able to see through it.

“When our federal lawyers host these lobby groups at the end of the week, I hope they cast a more critical eye over any research presented than certain media outlets did. I also hope they are able to work out which person in the room represents the ACIG, AFACT, DEAA, IPAF, MPA, MPAA or all of the above,” Petersen concludes.

The good news is that the piece in the Canberra Times shows that not all journalists are indirectly working for the MPAA. Increasingly, we see skepticism towards the continuous stream of anti-piracy propaganda and more room for a sensible discussion about the topics at stake. Perhaps the tide is turning?

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