Monday, January 28, 2008

What is Stealing?

The situation for peer to peer file sharing in Sweden (apparently its quite popular here) is about to get more interesting. Firstly the application for summons is going to be delivered by prosecutor Håkan Roswall to the public prosecutors office this week after a 20 month investigation into the organisation. It will probably result in some sort of legal action against the Pirate Bay (currently hosting 1 million torrents and 10 million seeders) but spokespeople for the Bay have already said they are prepared to take it all the way to the European Court so it will be years before any binding decision is made. Even Håkan Roswall does not believe the Pirate Bay can be stopped with a case mounted in Sweden and according to the driving force behind the case against the Bay, IFPI "Internationally there are 20 illegal downloads of music for every legal one". The situation seems difficult for the anti-pirates, however that does not stop them.
Liza Marklund (who ironically runs a publishing company called Piratforlaget - The Pirate Publishing House) published a column in the Expressen newspaper ("Stop Complaining Net Pirates"), which was a hard attack against not only the act of illegal downloading, but the ideology of those who propose that the laws surrounding publishing rights need to be changed. The final sentence in Marklunds diatribe attempts to summarise those in the Pirate Party (which actually is a very separate organization from the Pirate Bay and the Pirate Bureau):

Vi är ett gäng lata, snåla nättjuvar som snyltar på andras arbete.
("We are a gang of lazy, stingy net thieves who sponge on the work of others.")

Marklund must have been having a bad day when she wrote this as it seems to have little to do with the situation that is P2P sharing technology and law today. Wheather or not those that download share their own materials that they have themselves created (and I am sure many do) is not really the point. There are over 450 comments on the article which summarize a number of positions in relation to it (if you can read Swedish). However, I wanted to comment also on the article but the comments have been closed off now, so I thought to add something here. From Techcrunch:

The era of paid music downloads is coming to an end (despite the fact that online sales are growing).

Qtrax, which has signed all four major labels (EMI, SonyBMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group), launched yesterday with 25 million songs (compared to around 3 m for Amazon and 6 m for iTunes). Note: See update below.

It isn’t pretty - the downloaded songs are not compatible with iPods and have to be played via a proprietary player built on the Songbird platform. Ads are displayed during playback, even on music devices. For now the service is Windows only, so Mac users are left out. And right now the service is down completely from all the attention it’s getting.

For most people, BitTorrent and the music search engines are all they need for their illegal-but-highly-convenient music needs. Any additional hurdles means not a ton of usage. And since services like Imeem and provide free on demand streaming music with ads, there is already real competition out there for Qtrax.

I really do not think that Marklund and those she represents understand what is going on here. Calling people names is not going to solve the problems of new technology colliding with old industry. A legal result (and it is at least 5 years away if the Pirate Bay take the upcoming case to the European Court) may make some difference to the situation, but with access to the law dependent upon financial and political power it seems that the result will just contribute to the already bi-polar situation we have at the moment. Many people no longer see culture as property but rather experience has become the commodity they are prepared to pay for. A concert, festival, exhibition, reading will be well attended and make money. Distributing the products of an artist introduces the public to the work of the artist. They will pay to experience the work of the artist but not to have a track on an Mp3 player or some images from a film. Once people realize that the cultural ecomony we are now living in is not the same as that one that existed even 10 years ago then we can begin to set up a new system where artists are rewarded for their work. Holding out for a return to the past is only depriving artists of income and the support they need to make new works. Insisting on payment for every megabyte is dumb.

UPDATE: Tomorrow at 9:30 am the European Court of Justice will deliver a decision making it possible or not for Internet Service Providers to be obliged to provide police with ISP numbers of those who download large amounts of information over the internet. The details of the case are:

Reference for a preliminary ruling - Juzgado de lo Mercantil no 5, Madrid, Spain - Interpretation of Articles 15 (2) and 18 of Directive 2001/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (OJ 2000 L 178, p. 1), Article 8 (1) and (2) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society (OJ 2001 L 167, p.10) and Article 8 of Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (OJ 2004 L 157, p. 45) - Treatment of data generated by communications made in the context of the supply of an information society service - Duty of operators of electronic communications networks and services, providers of telecommunications network access and providers of data storage services to retain and make available such data - Not where civil proceedings are concerned.
Advocate General : Kokott

Of course Sweden will have to comply with the ruling of the court. Professor of Media Technology at the Royal Technical College in Stockholm, Roger Wallis describes the rational behind ISP surviellance for P2P file sharing as:

Sverige är nästan längst fram i världen när det gäller små företag i mediebranschen som utvecklar nya affärsmodeller som går ihop med internet och fildelning. Det ses som ett jättehot från de stora skivbolagen som satsar allt mer pengar på allt färre artister, och de har inte råd med en flopp.

("Sweden is almost foremost in the world when it comes to small companies in the media industry which develops new business models that include internet and file sharing. That is seen as a huge threat by the big record labels which devote more and more money to fewer and fewer artists, and they cannot afford to produce a flop")

No comments: