Is it possible to eradicate piracy?

In this age of technology, is it a wonder that piracy is gaining more popularity and more difficult to eradicate? Could you imagine, a little over a decade ago, there were less than a quarter of internet users compared to today?

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And my favorite part, the speed.

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Here is the full list of comparisons.

We have come a long way, and from the development of Internet itself, the common occurrence of online piracy should not even be a question.

Who is pirating?

Students would be the first to come to mind. With the piling student loans, would anyone actually want to spend money on something that they could obtain for free? Maybe some hardcore fans, but not everyone.

Another cause might be those people who do not live in North America, or Europe. Many games would be released first in those two regions. How about those who do not reside in either of the regions? They would have to wait for months for the official version to be released. Those companies who offered shipping are not helping either; some of the games would not be playable, due to the regional restriction. In my opinion, those companies are the one to blame for encouraging piracy, by applying regional restrictions on their product.

Another example would be movies. The release dates of some movies, in the theatre or on DVD; also differ based on region. And again, usually those in North America or Europe are at an advantage. To summarize my point, those companies that made it difficult for the consumers are the ones to blame.

What have they done to combat piracy? 

Undeniably, they have done a lot. However, there was one bill that caused a major spur among netizens; called SOPA. In late 2011, SOPA was introduced by the U.S. Representative, Lamar Smith.

What is SOPA?

Basically, it stands for Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It was an attempt to combat online copyright infringement and online trafficking in counterfeited goods. If the bill managed to pass, it might actually alter the whole cyber world. It ended up failing miserably; a lot of the major websites protested against it.

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Good concept, but not really well-thought out..

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However, in early 2012, a major file-sharing website was shut down. It was a huge shock to the people. At one point in everyone’s life, I’m certain that everyone had downloaded at least one file from Megaupload before. It did not require peer-to-peer connections, and it was solely dependent on the internet speed. Even though it was not completely free, as they encouraged people to buy their subscriptions, there were choices for those who wanted to download for free.

To this day, I’m still not sure why would they shut down Megaupload. Rumour has it Megaupload was planning to launch Megabox, a feature that would cut off the need of middle-men (record companies) to sell the artists’ work. It was planned to share music for free (and legally!).

“UMG [Universal Music Group] knows that we are going to compete with them via our own music venture called Megabox.com, a site that will soon allow artists to sell their creations directly to consumers while allowing artists to keep 90 percent of earnings,” said MegaUpload founder Kim dotcom.

“We have a solution called the Megakey that will allow artists to earn income from users who download music for free,” Dotcom said. “Yes that’s right, we will pay artists even for free downloads.  The Megakey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works.”

That seemed to be a plausible explanation, but again, we would never know. To be fair, there is also www.4shared.com, that certainly offers a similar service to Megaupload, but why is it still there? Why was Megaupload the only one being targeted? In my very personal opinion, I believe they might have intercepted with FBI’s work. The founder and three of his colleagues were extradited from New Zealand at the time of arrest.

After reading all these, I believe shutting down piracy could be as easy as snapping one’s fingers. The officials might be just clueless on how to deal with angry netizens (or how to punish them). Realistically, almost everyone have downloaded something from the internet, and arresting all of them would definitely be ludicrous.

Are we ready for a change?

I could see that netizens are, but maybe not for the entertainment industry. They clearly are still hung up on the olden days where distribution of artists’ work was still tight on their grasp. In the past, consumers were controlled by these companies, and today the roles have been reversed.

iTunes embraced the change and succeeded to fit in today’s society. Remember the older days when we were forced to buy the whole cassette, or CD just for the sake of one song that caught our attention? iTunes introduced the alternative to music purchasing, and allowed the consumers to purchase the songs individually or per album, whatever tickled the consumers’ fancy.

In spite of the acceptance received by Apple, Netflix and Redbox, who are on the same side with the movie studios are being pushed to the edge. They are actually a great solution to the studios problem on peer-to-peer movie piracy. Instead, they would prefer to have their DVDs sold, and decided to fight Netflix and Redbox, making it difficult for them to stream movies legally.

Netflix is not allowed to expand their membership to Australia, which is absurd. With the advancement of technology, there is another alternative to non-USA resident who wants to purchase Netflix’s subscriptions. It’s a subscription based service that would allow users to watch Netflix outside of USA.

Again, I believe piracy is pretty much immortal, unless those industries could come up with something that would be able to replace the conveniency of pirating (or major brainwashing could work too!). Instead of pining over online piracy, these companies could focus on selling merchandise, or organizing more fan meetings.

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