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Gloves Off in War Against Online Piracy

June 19th, 2003

The record labels are going nuts.

First they sued Napster to shut them down–understandable, Napster was a centrally identifiable organization with a direct hand in piracy. Then they started suing people, from those that produced pirating software to those who put copyrighted material on the web. Harsh, maybe heavy-handed, but still legal and understandable.

Then they started going just a tad overboard, creating a computer virus and intentionally infecting computers with it. Now, Orrin Hatch and others are getting mean, too–escalating the threat from “damage” to “destroy.” Under the proposed legislation, if you downloaded, say, three Beatles’ songs from KaZaA, you would not be sued or imprisoned–instead, your property would be trashed.

Now, I am not trying to argue that online piracy should be allowed, but there is such a thing as going way too far to punish people for it. It is equivalent, for example, to creating a car that, when stolen, would burn down the thieve’s house; or a shoplifting tag on clothing that would, if taken out of the store, melt your entire wardrobe. Those who are stolen from have the right to try to catch those who steal and retrieve their stolen property. They do not, in my humble opinion, have the right to destroy other belongings that person holds.

This is just the next step in an escalating war on music piracy that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is trying to take, and if you ask me, it stinks to high heaven, undermining our principles of justice. If you steal my bicycle, I have no right to trash your garage. I get the evidence and present it to the police. But the RIAA feels they are above us all on this one, that they can not only take the law into their own hands but also go beyond normal standards of decency.

And the reason? Online piracy is destroying their sales, they say. Baloney. Record sales started falling when the economy started to tank. Before the bad economy, people were downloading like crazy from Napster, and yet record sales increased throughout that period. The record labels–and anyone who looks at the figures and does some simple correlation–know full well this is true. But the labels, despite knowing they don’t lose much, want to protect their property entire. But they know full well that consumers will not swallow these “protections” without good cause, so they hold up their sagging sales as the justification. But the justification is false.

The RIAA has to be held to the same standards as the rest of us. I don’t pity the pirate who gets trashed, but I do fear the corporation or organization that believes it is above the people and can infringe on their civil rights.

Not to mention, hackers will likely find a way to get around the trashing scheme rather quickly–so what will the RIAA ask for next?

Update: This Kuro5hin article says it all beautifully, much better than I could.

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  1. June 20th, 2003 at 10:42 | #1

    …so what will the RIAA ask for next?

    Dunno, maybe the right to exact a tax from anyone with an Internet connection?

    More than what the RIAA will ask for, though, I worry about what Microsoft will make possible with the Digital Rights Management features of its next operating system.

    The business world is taking up a very anti-consumer posture these days.

  2. Luis
    June 20th, 2003 at 11:05 | #2

    You said it. But some people already pay a piracy tax: some CD-R’s cost extra to compensate the RIAA already. In addition, we pay a hefty piracy tax for software. Think about MS Office at about $500 a pop–conservative estimate, maybe 100,000,000 people (just 1/3 of the population of the U.S.) around the world use the software. If all paid for it, that would mean $50 Billion just for Office alone, not including costs for upgrades and constant new buyers. Software is priced high because it is pirated so much, and the honest buyer pays for it.

    Of course, that does not mean that if piracy ended today that MS would lower its prices–quite the contrary. Windows XP is more copy-proof than before, but the price just keeps on going up.

    And with the DRM MS is putting up, I think you’ll see a minor rebellion–they are moving far too far towards complete control of everything you do, even trying to coax you to save your personal files on their servers, and hand over control of your computer to them. I’m glad I’m Mac-based….

  3. June 20th, 2003 at 13:42 | #3

    It won’t be long, I fear, before Windows users will be forced to rent their own data from Microsoft.

    You are indeed lucky to be in the Mac camp. My next computer will almost certainly be a Mac (I use Linux at home, Windows at work), but that alone will not save us from Microsoft’s long-term plans.

    Now that the browser wars are officially over, and Microsoft has announced its intention to abandon MSIE as a stand-alone product, I imagine it will only be a matter of time before it starts forcing the Internet into a straightjacket that fits remarkably like…MSN!

    But, anyway, back to the original topic: RIAA is way out of line in its efforts to control piracy, but with Orrin Hatch on its side (and MS DRM lurking in the background), I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for consumers. Digital manacles?

  4. Luis
    June 20th, 2003 at 17:03 | #4


    You are indeed lucky to be in the Mac camp. My next computer will almost certainly be a Mac (I use Linux at home, Windows at work), but that alone will not save us from Microsoft’s long-term plans.

    And if you’ve been watching the site, you’ll see that it may indeed be a good time to come over to the Mac camp–the new G5’s may have much more impressive specs than anyone anticipated…

    …I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for consumers. Digital manacles?

    Nah… just Big Brother is all. It’s all about Privacy, and privacy works against Microsoft’s interests.

  5. June 23rd, 2003 at 14:12 | #5

    “Just Big Brother”? Well, that sets my mind at ease. I thought we were in for something really bad. 😉

    Interestingly, Microsoft’s DRM will probably be great for its own privacy (and that of large corporations everywhere, which is why DRM will face little resistance from hapless end users), but not so good for the privacy of its customers. Or, as I wrote when I first saw this news:

    “It is possible to see how this new technology…can be both good and bad. On the whole, however, I think it will be bad for the public good.”

  6. Quentin
    May 20th, 2006 at 14:04 | #6

    Libraries are awesome. Some times I go to the library to pirate a book. Usually I give the librarian my library card and they let me take the book home for free, as long as I return it. I’m OK with returning it though. Hey, I got to read the book for free.

    Yeah, that’s the way I look at it. When some one downloads something from a file sharing network they are probably doing it because they want that file. If they want the file they probably like the author of the content. If some one wants a movie they probably like the people that made it, or at least like the chance to see a good movie.

    Free is wonderful.

    Thanks for letting me post

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