Archive Pen & Links

Arrrr mateys, it be rough seas for the recording industry

February 19, 2009

Normally the Swedish courts don’t fall into my scope of things to follow in my life, but when someone rents a city bus for people to come in and watch, decides to provide their own audio stream of the trial and schedules a “HUGE PARTY” in the middle of it all, I’m watching.

All of this was the prelude to this week’s trial against The Pirate Bay. The site hosts links to torrents, both legal and not, but not the actual files. Now I’m far from an expert on the inner workings of torrent files and peer-to-peer sites, but I am an expert in BS. The major recording labels are ordering the site to walk the plank and pay hefty damages for what they perceive as losses from downloads of their copyrighted works.

Half of the charges in this case were wiped out on the first day because the prosecution didn’t quite understand how the site worked. The tossed charges said the site provided the actual files when all they provided were links to torrents.

Follow closely here, because I’m probably going to go off the deep end myself here in tech terms trying to explain this:

The prosecution said in its complaint that The Pirate Bay was giving out the music and videos it alleges were pirated. The site actually hosts links to what are called torrent files. Torrents are not the actual music or video files, rather they just point to where the files are on the Internet. Think of these like little maps that show where a file can be found.

So as the lawyers for the owners of the site have pointed out, any actual theft from the recording companies is done by the users – or in this case the companies need to find “King Kong” and deal with him.

But in all seriousness, the recording companies are asking for $13 million to compensate for all of the illegal downloads, which is wrong on a few different levels.

1) Not everyone who steals something was going to buy it in the first place

2) EMI wants 130 euros, or approximately $163 U.S. for every Beatles track that hasn’t been released online (in other words, all of them). This defies logic since it’s entirely likely people are pirating these songs because they aren’t available anywhere else online. There’s a market for the music, but if people aren’t able to buy it, they’ll find another means to get it.

3) There is no material loss from the piracy. It’s not as though someone went in and stole a CD from a store that had to be burned, encased, packaged and transported before it arrived there. It’s a duplication of data. While intellectual property is lost, there isn’t a calculable cost from the piracy. The labels can say they lost “x” number of potential sales, but there is no way to prove those sales would have actually been made.

Honestly, if the recording companies took the money they’re paying their lawyers and put it into their music, the industry may not be in the decline its in today.

And by the way, most of you are breaking the law with your music. The Recording Industry Artists of America argued in a 2007 case that copying your CDs to your computer for your own personal use is illegal. I guess that means I broke the law a lot of times when I wanted to reimport my music in a better format from my CDs that I own.