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Friday, April 17, 2009

The Empire Strikes Back

This hiatus has taken a long time, but I assume by now that this blog has been marked and is accounted for, so I'm going to go back to posting.

What better place to start than with our friends over at The Pirate Bay Trial?

In case you have not heard, The Pirate Bay (TPB) was found guilty. (Secondary sources here and here, proving it's an international event).

Not that I'm against the idea of copyrights, but I still think that the decision, and the trial as a whole, was more of a farce than a real trial. Given the information about the trial that was widely available, I'm actually a bit surprised at the verdict - it seemed any well-informed site was siding with TPB, while the majority of sites siding with the RIAA (the record companies) did not even have a clue how the technology worked. The guys from TPB did not do themselves any favors with their attitudes, but frankly I think they were in the right, so attitude or not, this verdict seems unjust... though there are going to be so many appeals that this matter probably won't be settled for a while.

So let's go over the ramifications of what just happened:
  • Bittorrent sites will start offering services to shield users from tracking - it's not really a fix, as any hacker can still track you down, but it makes it a much bigger hassle to
  • Being associated with somebody online who may or may not be doing something illegal is enough to classify you as doing something illegal - strange, seeing as none of the people accused had really organized anything in real life (with only a few minor meetings between particular members occurring)
  • It is now illegal to simply index illegal content - so if your site offers an MP3 download, watch out - you may be breaking the law? Incidentally, as Google contributed money to the trial, they are exempt from this classification
  • Expert witnesses and competent analysis of the law lost against lawyers blatantly breaking trial procedure and witnesses who were unable to justify anything, and the guilty party is planning to appeal and avoid paying the fines - there is some disillusionment with the legal system there
So what can we take away from all this? Some predictions on what will happen:
  • Bittorrent itself likely won't slow down, but if it did, then just like with Kazaa and Napster, somebody is going to invent something that downloads things illegally. Which is too bad, because Bittorrent is brilliant technology - something that speeds up instead of slows down with more use? You'd think more companies would latch onto this (a lot already do - many online games download patches with Bittorrent, since it is so efficient)
  • The sales of music will likely go down rather than up - the few people who were buying records after downloading them will likely be a little angry, and I doubt anybody who was downloading will be swayed to suddenly shell out $20 for a CD with only 2 good songs on it
  • Record companies (and to some extent, movie companies too), now filled with a sense of false hope, will not do anything to improve their product and make it more saleable, since the tactic of attacking threats seems to be working; this will put back development by a decade
  • Somebody will make a vigilante attack on the judge of this trial (despite his claims that there were no threats to him, there probably soon will be) - most sane people will decry it as the attack of one crazy person, but at the same time, nobody will feel all that sorry for the judge. He comes off as somebody in the RIAA's control (even if it's not the case) based on the flow of the trial and the sudden about face in the decision.
These are all subjective opinions though - not being able to speak Swedish (and nowhere near bored enough to go over the whole trial), I have to make due with a lot of secondhand information, so take it all with a grain of salt. But my personal opinion? It seems like the wrong verdict, it will actually be worse for the music / movie industry since they're going to lose a lot of goodwill from people hit by a depression who already think these moguls are making too much, it'll set back development for years, and the trial is simply going to drag on with appeal after appeal until it fades from consciousness - and in the meantime, another new "threat" to the music / movie industry will crop up.

Denying progress is never a good thing... In Star Wars, after the Death Star was blown up, instead of coming up with a new plan, they simply built a second Death Star. Now, is that a good or bad idea?

It feels so good to write again.


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