Although endlessly interesting the battles between the entertainment industries, their armies of lawyers and millions of Internet users has a tendency to get terribly depressing.
The past 15 years is littered with casualties. Dozens of file-sharing services have been shut down, with Napster, Kazaa, Grokster, LimeWire, Megaupload and isoHunt merely heading up an almost endless list of sharing tools subjected to destruction. Sadly they are just the tip of the iceberg, with much of the action this year going on under the surface.
During 2013 Hollywood and the music industry deliberately calmed down in the United States, putting citizens there at ease after the SOPA debacle. But while the United States sleeps they are doing their work overseas in countries such as the UK. Grabbing a domain is out of the question on home soil, but doing it through a foreign proxy is easy. It’s a depressing land grab with worldwide implications that no one is doing anything about.
Other miserable developments have their roots in the past. Last decade the RIAA decided it would be a good idea to sue its own customers and continued for years until finally realizing they were getting nowhere. The same cynical practice is today being carried out by dozens of bottom-feeding troll companies such as Prenda Law, Malibu Media and GoldenEye International, each looking to profit from piracy and doing so by the most damaging and cruel means possible.
So when an article gets published that states that Iron Maiden, a huge band with a massive following, has decided to look at piracy and do something positive with it, people get properly excited. And rightly so.
Learning that the band monitored BitTorrent networks and collected pirate location data not to sue their fans, but to find out where they are in order to play for them, was a wonderful juxtaposition to the snarly image Metallica cultured when crushing Napster at the turn of the century.
Here was a band being smart, using piracy data to intelligently develop their product and image, casting their lawyers aside and putting their energies into something positive. At the same time, to the delight of the crowds and quite clearly the majority of the tech press, pleasing and embracing fans in a way that the file-sharing scene has advised for more than a decade.
But sadly the story isn’t true and CiteWorld, the publishers of the original article, have printed a full apology and heavily edited their report to reflect the much less exciting reality.
How disappointing is that? That ray of light in a sea of bad news was not only welcome, but badly needed. Now it’s gone and we’re left with that sinking feeling because let’s face it, we’ve had a pretty depressing year.
Site closures, site blockades, six strikes, the specter of ISP filtering, not to mention intensive lobbying that threatens to further restrict freedom on the Internet in the name of protecting copyright.
The Iron Maiden story is just what we needed, a story that opened up new ways of thinking and gave us hope that things can be handled in a different way. It reinvigorated the belief that bands, artists and file-sharers really can come together in a way that not only makes sense but is productive for everyone concerned.
At this point we really want to believe, we want to have hope that someone, somewhere, will come along and take away the negativity. That’s why the Iron Maiden article was repeated so many times and that’s why people wanted to spread the news. It gave us a chance to share being positive and was cool – very cool indeed.
CiteWorld may have got it wrong but their story has the potential to spark good things, so here’s to a 2014 fueled by people who see potential and want to drive the good news train. There’s a big audience out there ready to ride it – and hand over their money to do so.