Now that the SOPA and PIPA fights have died down, and Hollywood prepares their next salvo against internet freedom with ACTA and PCIP, it’s worth pausing to consider how the war on piracy could actually be won. It can’t, is the short answer, and one these companies do not want to hear as they put their fingers in their ears and start yelling. As technology continues to evolve, the battle between pirates and copyright holders is going to escalate, and pirates are always, always going to be one step ahead.
While “pirates” are always going to be one step ahead, that doesn’t mean that the structure of the internet cannot be undermined by wealthy lobbyists. I completely agree that the enforcement of copyright will never be absolute. Copyright enforcement doesn’t work and we need an alternative. I suggest that we first start calling Internet Piracy by what it really is, File Sharing.
It’s not a physical product that’s being taken. There’s nothing going missing, which is generally the hallmark of any good theft. The movie and music industries’ claim that each download is a lost sale is absurd. I might take every movie in that fictional store if I was able to, but would I have spent $3 million to legally buy every single DVD? No, I’d probably have picked my two favorite movies and gone home.
The difference between stealing and copying is becoming increasingly important. The Missionary Church of Kopimism has the right idea: “a congregation of file sharers who claim that copying information is a sacred virtue.” Their definition of information includes all types of media including, music, video, and software. While this may sound like a ploy by the file sharing community to justify their activity, they may actually be making a legitimate point. One of the reasons the internet is valuable because it gives us access to information. The sharing of copyrighted media increases access to information.
Right now, the industry is still stuck in the past, and is crawling oh-so-slowly into the future. They still believe people are going to want to buy DVDs or Blu-rays in five years, and that a movie ticket is well worth $15. Netflix is the closest thing they have to an advocate, but the studios are trying to drive them out of business as they see them as a threat, not a solution. It’s mind boggling.
Digital distribution of media is the future. Copyright-enforcing tyrants must agree on a platform together and provide a system that people will actually enjoy using (think Steam). I do not believe abolishing copyright will limit innovation, but will instead encourage more people to create. Production companies, publishing companies and record labels must lose their ability to generate profit off the works of individuals, as we move to systems that reward independent artists and encourage new ideas.
The companies that benefit from copyrights are afraid to take risks as they pile mounds of money behind mundane projects. I believe that abolishing copyright enforcement online will not only increase innovation but also amplify the internet’s inherent strengths: connecting our world, educating the masses, fueling revolutions, and revealing truth.