Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Web Piracy: The Worm is Turning and Getting Teeth

I follow The Trichordist blog ( to keep up with issues of web piracy.  I recommend it for those in or out of the entertainment industry because David Lowery and his crew fight the good fight.   After decades of hearing nothing can be done, it is good to see some doing something.

This fight is going better.  More a-listers are speaking out and there is (looking at an earlier post) finally a focus on transactional models that bring to the discussion what is necessary;  standards for tracking and reporting based on computer science concepts that can be implemented and reported.  Excellent.  I recently noted a blog from a colleague lamenting timbl explaining that drm standards as much as so many of the digerati hate them are necessary.   That is good news for the creative industry over all.  It is not possible to stop piracy on the internet.   There is every possibility to improve the situation such that it is a reasonable business.  

The revelations about privacy, government snooping etc. even the problems with the obamacare website are bursting the myth of the web bubble: that it is an irrresistable juggernaut of technology innovation, resistance is futile, yadda yadda.   The web isn't going away and no one believes the creative industries can be turned back in time,  But there is finally a sober conversation that technology serves human needs and not the other way around, that technologists are not the moral arbiters of social progress and in fact in too many cases have been social morons.

Until we have transactional standards for transparent auditing and models for transactional pricing we won't be there, but at long last the conversation is realistic and those who say "it can't be done" are being held in the same regard as the tea party for the same reasons:  fools for the pirates of the economy are still fools.

Que bueno.

They may want to write some articles about developments in digital fingerprinting and tracking for media files.   Laws without teeth are games for monopoly money.  This has to be real and it has to have consequences both good and bad.


John Cowan said...

Right before seeing this, I just finished reading Salvos Against Big Brother, a series of anti-DRM, anti-posthumous-copyright articles. They are very much not the usual thing. They are written by Eric Flint, a writer, editor, and publisher who has conventionally published (not self-published) about 30 novels, releases all of them online for free six months after paperback publication, and still makes Good Money (about $150,000 per year as of the mid-00s) by his writing. He firmly believes that DRM does not make economic sense, and that long copyright terms are extremely damaging to authors, and he addresses both the loopy and the sensible arguments from both extremes ("nail everything down" and "information wants to be free"). There's a bit of raw data too, including sales figures showing how he turned a disposable first novel into a perennial. Music is not his focus, but there is some mention of it as well.

I'd like to hear what you think of it.

Len Bullard said...

Thanks John. I will give it a read and pass it along.

Len Bullard said...

Read it. This is the Silly Valley version of Ted Cruz.

The gist is in the opening:

"First, they represent a growing encroachment on the personal liberties of the American public, as well as those of citizens in other countries in the world;"

There is no inherent right to steal. The means of burgling a house or running a con don't matter if the results are the same.

"Second, they add further momentum to what is already a dangerous tendency of governments and the large, powerful corporations which exert undue influence on them to arrogate to themselves the right to make decisions which properly belong to the public;"

So let's conflate big brother with an artist making a mediuan wage and the big bad corporations like.... Google? The focus on piracy is not on the little guys who make a CD and pass it around. It is on the Kim Dotcom's who host sites where up to 96% of the content is pirated. Let's talk about the "rights of individuals" but somehow the copyright owners and the artists are not any of those?

"Third, they tend inevitably to constrict social, economic, technical and scientific progress;"

That is Bullshit. Where has any programmer ever been constricted by having to pay the 99 cents for the song? Really.

"And, fourth, they represent an exercise in mindless stupidity that would shame any self-respecting dinosaur."

And that is why I label these guys social morons. They cannot fathom that some respect for the owners of the content just might be merited. For this fellow, a large chamberpot on his head. Tit for tat.

DRM is not a solution that most artists care for anymore than a cop wants to carry a gun, but only a social moron says they shouldn't have them. And DRM is simply one piece of technology to be developed. Digital fingerprinting, digital forensics, and other tracking technology is coming online. That is the real technical legacy of piracy: the web is now a weapons systems market. T'would be nice if it weren't so but it is and it's going to get worse.

So what are the people who actually do want to do something positive do? They are working on the transactional models and standards that can restore some semblance of reason to the markets because for every guy like that who says he is making Big Money (and there are many ways to do that), there are far more artists who have watched their bank accounts dwindle. And that is a fact.

I think the time of the web resisting and making the kinds of claims he makes is over. Either as Jon Taplin says the ad market, the Googles and so on self-police (which I believe they are beginning to do), or between the various technical means now being innovated (so much for stifling; where there is a market there is a developer), increased focus by the FBI and other international police agencies, and the outrage of the raped who just refuse to lay back and enjoy it while Silly Valley rolls in the dough they've acquired through incentivizing piracy, hell is coming more and every day.

Might as well learn to deal. As Simon St Laurent said, "You'd think they don't trust us." Well, he's right. They don't. And that's because every time they did, another article like that came out and more artists got screwed. They don't trust the web mavens because demonstrably and provably, they aren't trustworthy.

Len Bullard said...

Once past the hyperbole, here is something to consider in the purely mercantile mode: the pirates and their allies in Silly Valley are not simply stealing, they are corrupting the market. The major companies paying for those ads are wittingly and unwittingly sponsoring some of the less attractive market sectors.

Like it or not, while the putz goes on about individual freedom, a concept I'm not sure he actually understands past "I Got Mine. You Get Yours." he is helping to destroy the very society that enables his freedoms. Freedom is not a "natural state of man" in the Rousseau tradition; it is a condition afforded by a society that collaboratively and consensually enables it through norms that provide assurances of respect and protection of property.

Ditch that and the thin veneer fades astoundingly quickly.

John Cowan said...

Eric Flint = Ted Cruz? Horselaugh. The guy's an old lefty. As a "content owner" himself, he has a cheerful contempt for pirates. As he says, if his work were really to be pirated on a massive scale, that would mean he had become so famous he'd be rich. Did you get to the part about market opacity? Essentially every artist's problem is not that they can't get paid for their work because it's too easy to pirate. It's that nobody even knows the artist exists. How many people would be willing to pay for your songs if they only could find out about them?

The part about "personal liberties" refers to the fact that essentially nothing is going into the public domain any more. This makes a tolerated monopoly (it's better than patronage, and that's all you can say for it) into an intolerable one. And it's Mouse Incorporated, not individual artists, who pushed for 120-year terms for works made for hire and will no doubt be going for 150-year terms next. How can copyright possibly promote the progress of science and the useful arts when everything that's in copyright the day you are born remains so until long after the day your children die?

Comment Policy

If you don't sign it, I won't post it. To quote an ancient source: "All your private property is target for your enemy. And your enemy is me."