British Phonographic Industry Are Idiots And High Court Helps Them
Monday, 30th April 2012
So the British Phonographic Industry, via the High Courts have ordered ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay. How does this make them idiots? The answer is not short, because of the number of levels this is all wrong, or pointless.
Firstly, I am not an advocate of piracy. I buy my music. In fact, I pay for my music many times over. I buy records either as CDs or MP3 downloads, but also pay a subscription to listen to the same music on Spotify. I'm not alone, you can read some bragging about the amount of digital music spending in the UK on the BPI website. Note the frequent use of the word "increase". Clearly, we are not all stealing music.
Now let's cover the pointless aspect. All The Pirate Bay does is provide a search that includes pirated content in the results. They aren't hosting the illegal content. They aren't printing CDs and trying to the sell them to you in the pub. They are a search engine. If The Pirate Bay is destroyed right this second, it removes none of the illegal content from The Web. It is all still there and can be found through one of many similar sites that are like The Pirate Bay. On top of this, even this High Court ruling won't actually kill The Pirate Bay anyhow, because it will still be available either as a mirror-site, via a proxy or launched under another name.
If you want to take legal action about piracy, the crime is to share the material covered by copyright - so go after the people doing that and show that you are willing to put in the work to prosecute the people actually committing the crime. Yes, The Pirate Bay make money out of advertising, but not by hosting or sharing illegal content and the argument that they profiting from crime is surely as naive as it sounds. Don't newspapers have adverts in? If you want to get hold of someone who directly makes money out of the sale of counterfeit goods, Ebay is surely your top target.
Now let's talk about how you found out about your favourite bands. I got given a mix-tape by a guy called Dave that featured tracks by The Cure, Therapy?, Ministry and Sisters Of Mercy. Did this cause financial ruin for these bands? Of course not. I have bought some 20 albums by The Cure, everything Therapy? ever released in multiple formats including formats I don't even have the hardware to play any more and of course, tickets to see the bands perform live.
Yes, I know that there are people who are not like me and who are just after a free ride - but aren't these the individuals who copied their friends CDs onto their computer, or used a tape-desk to copy cassettes, or used a reel-to-reel to rip vinyl?
The real reason, though, that all this makes the BPI look like idiots is that the main reason they suffer at the hands of consumers is that the British music fan hates the fat-cat evil record companies. I don't believe for a second that the record companies are really that evil - but when they are represented as a faceless corporation with the power to shut down websites it really does make them look the part. The industry needs a make-over. It needs to show music fans that it supports talent, cuts a fair deal with the artists and with the fans who adore them. It doesn't need a demonstration of heavy-handed power.
But why is this such a touchy subject? Why do I care about some website that provides search indexing for torrents? Well I don't. The problem I have is that private companies can go to court and shut down a website not because of its own content, but because of content it links to. That means any search engine can be blocked for the same reason. It means social networks could be blocked for the same reason and who knows where it will stop.
When they block The Pirate Bay, you might not care because, like me, you don't use The Pirate Bay. But the problem is that this is where it starts and we don't know where it will stop.