Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Theft by any other name

Wired has an article on the Pirate Bay, a bitTorrent index site located in Sweeden.

Predictably this service is popular with the pirates and not popular with the people whose property is being stolen. Slashdot is
rapidly filling up with supportinve comments, its easy to be popular when you are giving other people's valuable property away.

Most of these people would never steal a CD or DVD from a store. They don't see themselves as theives even though taking the content off bitTorrent is exactly the same thing.

The RIAA was pretty flat footed in their approach to online piracy. They also made complete fools of themselves by buying legislation from Congress that allowed them to effectively steal the copyrights of the artists by having millions of works retrospectively declared 'works for hire' and thus exempt from the 25 year copyright clawback that would otherwise have returned rights to the artist. They did not take the threat from Napster seriously, it was just a minor annoyance that would not be allowed to get in the way of other business.

Coertion is only a small part of how law and order are maintained. It is not lack of opportunity that stops most people from stealling, it is lack of any temptation to do so. The RIAA made a major error by engaging in theft itself at the same time it was attempting to persuade others to avoid the temptation to steal.

Disney's legislative grab of 20 years extra 'copyright' for Mickey Mouse from the public domain was certainly regrettable. If copyright holders are going to expect their copyrights to be observed they have to themselves become vigilant about observing the rights of the public domain.

Technology and DRM will certainly play an important role in copyright protection. But reliance on technology alone is not going to be a successful strategy. To be successful the strategy must contain the psychological element.

No comments: