Pirates Without A Care Of Being

30 01 2012

You would think that in the post-Napster era, we all would have learned our lesson about piracy. Stealing is stealing, whether it is digital or tangible. Never mind that it is beyond simple to do it. When it comes to intentional “sharing” of content (music, movies, video games, etc.) for the express purpose of circumventing established, legal means of distribution (i.e., paying for it through authorized vendors), then the big foot of the law needs to kick some butt.

Which is exactly what happened when the feds shut down Megaupload recently. In recent days, the opulent, carefree lifestyle of Kim Dotcom has exposed Megaupload for what it really is: a get-rich scheme for a group of smart-ass hackers.

Kim won the support of many hip-hop artists because he promised to put their music in the hands of fans by bypassing standard middlemen. Ironically, though, what Kim did was create a new middleman…Megaupload…and while the rev share was more favorable for artists than through conventional means, it made Kim and his partners-in-crime fabulously wealthy. The artists may have made a few more bucks, but poetic justice is not always legal.

Under the guise of subscriptions for faster downloads and broader access to content, Megaupload sold $150 million of these memberships, along with another $25 million in ad sales.

Arguing that Megaupload is “only” a cloud repository of content (effectively a virtual locker), they contend they are merely providing a service to their 180 million members.

But the implicit wink-wink of it all did not fly with authorities, who saw it for what it really is: a global house of digital promiscuity.

Interestingly, the New Zealand sting came down precisely when the SOPA/PIPA controversy filled American airwaves (and numerous popular sites went black for a day). Megaupload, though, is not the innocent little site owner who accidentally (or even willingly) posts a video with a copyrighted music bed. It is a fence for stolen content. Once a user sneaks a peak or listen, it is hot.

In the first decade of this century, the RIAA scared the daylights out of average people like you and me by targeting grandmothers, 8-year-old kids, and everyone in between…all for posting songs to music sharing sites. The RIAA sought compensatory and punitive damages for what it argued were lost sales.

And it won.

While the wording of SOPA/PIPA may have been confusing and unnecessarily scaremongering, its intent was good. It needs to be re-worked so that there is no fear that sites like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and others are not mercilessly slashed and burned. On the other hand, we need for more shut downs on the order of Megaupload to send the message that piracy is still piracy.

Regardless of whose seas on which it happens.

Dr “Pay As You Go” Gerlich


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