Anirudh RegidiJul 22, 2016 13:53:40 IST
Sharing is in our nature. We’ve been ‘sharing’ our songs and movies since the days of the cassette tape and VCR, and maybe even earlier. We’ve been ‘sharing’ books long before that. It was illegal then and it’s illegal now, but we’ve always found a way to ‘share’ and I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do to stop it.
The personal computer arrived sometime in 1975 and Basic was the go-to program for those PCs. What did we do with this newfound wonder? We pirated it of course! In an open letter to hobbyists, Bill Gates himself had lamented the 90 percent piracy rate and the estimated loss in revenue.
I’m not here to argue the legality or morality of the issue, however. Everyone has their own justification for pirating / stealing / sharing content and many will argue vehemently in favour of or against piracy anyway.
No, I’m here to say that piracy has existed and will continue to exist in some form or the other.
We’ve been copying books and music since the 1960s, software since the late 1970s and now, in 2016, all that’s changed is the medium. The digital revolution probably began with IRC, Usenet and later, Napster.
Sites like Demonoid and The Pirate Bay (TPB), H33t and more soon followed. As one would go down, another would rise to take its place. Demonoid went down, TPB took its place. TPB went down, KickAss took its place. KickAss went down and we’re back to TPB. If TPB goes down again, there will be something else. This will not stop.
By the way, KickAss clones are already up.
If you remember the taking down of TPB in 2014, when the founders were arrested, the entire database was distributed online and clones popped up within a few days. In fact, it was noted that the loss of TPB did not impact global internet consumption in the slightest. There was a small, 5 percent dip on the day it went down, but pirates caught up again soon after.
In fact, the blocking of TPB and similar domains resulted in a jump in torrenting traffic in certain countries.
It’s been claimed many times that stake-holders in the music industry are spending millions of dollars every year to target and take down websites and individuals that have breached copyright law. I honestly doubt that the return on investment was worth it.
The amount of time and effort that goes into taking down a website, such as, say KickAss or TPB, must be inordinately large in view of the returns. As Tim Cushing of TechDirt points out, a sale lost to piracy does not necessarily translate to direct profit.
Sites like GreenManGaming and Steam have reported no impact on their sales as a result of the taking down of TPB. In fact, GoG.com, a site that specialises in offering DRM-free (read: copy-protection free) copies of games is only doing better and better for itself and the gaming community.
While I’m not in favour of piracy per se, I do feel that the money and effort that the recording industry throws into fighting piracy would be better spent building something better for users.
It’s not like TPB and the like don’t make money. In fact, that's part of the reason why these sites exist. Seized records show that KickAss made $12 million a year in ad-revenue. Isohunt settled a lawsuit for $110 million before shutting down and even Napster paid upwards of $30 million to settle a case in 2001.
There is money here. It’s only the model that needs fixing.