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Quick Note: Is Great Access the Answer to Piracy

January 15, 2012

Today’s Quick Note is about piracy, access to information and ways to combat it, including SOPA. SOPA, the much-debated anti-piracy legislation currently before Congress, has received considerable press recently. The fact that SOPA’s author recently struck a controversial IP-blocking provision does not make moot the debate about content ownership and distribution legislation. In the midst of this debate, I found a very interesting discussion of the phenomena of content piracy on a technology website.

ArsTechnica.com’s Jon Brodkin recently published a post titled “Forget SOPA: Copyright owners must build a better BitTorrent,” which addresses these topics in an unusual way.

Brodkin’s article introduces its point this way:

While copyright owners test the legal limits of website takedown processes and push legislation greatly expanding powers to limit file sharing on the open Internet, a company that helps corporations protect intellectual property argues there is a better way: create more user-friendly services for acquiring legitimate content.

[all italics are mine, and are used to show quotations from the original post]

The article explains that David Price, of Envisional, suggests that piracy really describes a shortage of access to information opportunities supplied by content owners, rather than (or at least more than) a fundamental anarchy in the “aftermarket” of information sharing. In his words, the proliferation of piracy demonstrates “that content owners aren’t offering enough legitimate, user-friendly avenues to get content.” He goes on to argue that “while piracy is unlikely to ever stop completely, many Internet users will turn to legitimate alternatives if the price and service are right.

Price has more interesting things to say:

The content owners are really fighting the tide of the Internet,” Price said. “They’re trying to fight the flow of the Internet which is all about making content as widely available as possible, as easily as possible, as quickly as possible. They’re trying to hold back the 1.4 billon users of the Internet from doing what the Internet wants them to do.

The article also suggests that legislation avenues such as SOPA may not be the most effective long-term mechanism to combat this kind of piracy:

The question is, if you have these sites which are distributing enormous amounts of pirated content and you have no idea where the owners are, who they might be, and how you can get hold of them to try and sue them, how can you actually take action against these sites and shut them down?

The article is a very well researched and written piece, and documents an unusual argument you won’t see anywhere else. Price, the originator of the argument, is convincing and authoritative. There are numerous facts introduced to the discussion. Jon Brodkin can be found on twitter at @JBrodkin.

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From → Internet, Technology

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