Time to Change Course on Piracy Sites

It should be only a matter of time before the copyright industry admits defeat in the fight against piracy sites. Although legally they win their cases– usually out of court for a few thousand dollars. The simple magnitude of piracy sites has got to be making their head spin. Sure they might be successful in taking a single major player, MegaUpload comes to mind, out of the game. However, that only creates a hole for multiple new sites to take their place. It doesn’t help the copyright industry that mirroring, proxies, and multiple domain listings are growing exponentially. Simply put, the demand for affordable (or free) movies and shows is there, and there are plenty of people with the know how and will to provide it.

Another One Bites the Dust (and 4 more take his place)

This week operator of FastPassTV and BedroomMedia, Paul Mahoney, was sentenced to 2 years in prison followed by 2 years on license (aka parole for us Americans). This came after the 30 year old recanted his former plea of not guilty. The poor chap from Northern Ireland later decided to plead guilty for running the two piracy sites in June of this year. In court, prosecutors alleged that Mahoney cost the copyright industry as much as £120,000,000 while raking in as much as £300,000 for himself from advertising revenue from his piracy sites.

The sentence was handed down by judge Phillip Babington to make Mahoney some kind of example. This was made clear when the judge said his hands were tied and he had “to show that behavior of this nature does not go unpunished.”

I’ve lost count of how many anti-piracy firms there are. There seem to be just as many firms as there are piracy sites. This case was investigated by a firm called the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). The director of this Hollywood funded (of course) ‘federation,’ General Kieron Sharp, said this:

Committing crime using the Internet is viewed by some as being less serious than more ‘traditional’ offending, which is particularly true of film and television piracy. This prosecution and sentence show that you cannot hide behind the supposed anonymity of the cyber world and that you will be identified, caught and convicted.

But I think this comments lacks facts (bad pun I know). First, I’m sure Mr. Sharp is old enough to remember people peddling CDs and VHS, and even DVDs on the side of the street back in the day. Those people knew what they were doing was wrong, as did their customers. The main drawback to this kind of distribution was that you had to be in the open- thus vulnerable to police- in order to maximize your sales. The only difference now, is that the ‘bootlegging’ has moved to the internet. And profits are not gained by the direct sale of content, but rather from advertising revenue gained from the flow traffic to the particular piracy sites.

The second bone I have to pick is that even if you catch the perpetrators of this ‘crime’ (which the success rate for this is still incredibly low) that doesn’t really do much. Take The Pirate Bay for example. Charges were initially filed in January of 2008 against the founders. It’s now over 7 years later and The Pirate Bay is still one of the leading piracy sites. If anything this only made The Pirate Bay’s brand more recognizable and popular.

And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they are just fighting a grease fire with water with every DMCA takedown notice and lawsuit they file.

Like Shooting Fish in A Barrel

Sure the internet is littered with fish that the copyright industry can fry. They have their pick of targets- there’s no shortage of piracy sites. As I mentioned before- where you take one player out of the game, you get several more competing for his spot.

This is highlighted by a recent article on TorrentFreakIn a previous article just last week I wrote about the arrest of a 38 year old man from Liverpool who’s home was raided and electronics confiscated for allegedly uploading UK top 40 and Billboard 100 tracks to torrent sites. Apparently his piracy sites weren’t that incredibly popular. They barely grazed the top 200,000 and top 3 million most popular websites. He was, by any standard, a small fish in the barrel.

Well, the demand is there and someone will deliver. Even with the absence of this man, there are no less than 4 available torrents for this week’s top 40 available right now on KickAssTorrents that provide the exact same package. So though this man might lose his freedom for a bit, did the copyright industry really gain anything by investigating, raiding, and arresting this man? I say nay.

Are Piracy Sites Monsters or Mosquitoes?

All of this puts the copyright industry in a tough spot. I can’t help but to liken it to the ‘war on drugs.’ Surely the government and copyright industry can’t admit defeat and say that their strategy isn’t working. They can’t change their course now- that would embarrassing. The only thing they might gain from this (something that didn’t work for the government either) is to sway people based on harsh punishment for those who are caught.

Even when supporting legislation is passed, footing the bill to catch pirates is one tab no one wants to pay. I’m not saying that I have the answers to the piracy or drug problem- but surely this method is not effective.

How much is the copyright industry really suffering anyways? The reported top pirated film of 2014 was “Wolf of Wall Street” in which, Leonardo DiCaprio alone still made $25 million! But what about a little further down the list? The number 17 most pirated film was “Divergent.” Even being downloaded illegally over 20 million times the film still netted just under $72 million.

So where exactly is this ‘grave injustice’ that the copyright industry is saying they have been dealt by piracy sites. Am I missing something?

If anything the recent highlight of the MPAA attempting underhanded (read: illegal) tactics and the lack of Australian censorship to move forward because of the costs only shows that these efforts are going nowhere. I mean, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade- not sue God for not giving you Florida oranges.

feature image courtesy of Jon Aslund

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