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No Level of Copyright Enforcement Will Ever Be Enough For Big Media

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Jan 7, 2018, 5:09:54 PM1/7/18

No Level of Copyright Enforcement Will Ever Be Enough For Big Media

On an almost continual basis rightsholders are calling for tougher
anti-piracy measures on top of more restrictive and punitive copyright
law. It's undoubtedly a threat to current Internet freedoms as we know
them. But really, is anyone truly surprised that entertainment
companies still hate their content being shared for free?

For more than ten years TorrentFreak has documented a continuous
stream of piracy battles so it’s natural that, every now and then, we
pause to consider when this war might stop. The answer is always “no
time soon” and certainly not in 2018.

When swapping files over the Internet first began it wasn’t a
particularly widespread activity. A reasonable amount of content was
available, but it was relatively inaccessible. Then peer-to-peer came
along and it sparked a revolution.

From the beginning, copyright holders felt that the law would answer
their problems, whether that was by suing Napster, Kazaa, or even end
users. Some industry players genuinely believed this strategy was just
a few steps away from achieving its goals. Just a little bit more
pressure and all would be under control.

Then, when the landmark MGM Studios v. Grokster decision was handed
down in the studios’ favor during 2005, the excitement online was
palpable. As copyright holders rejoiced in this body blow for the
pirating masses, file-sharing communities literally shook under the
weight of the ruling. For a day, maybe two.

For the majority of file-sharers, the ruling meant absolutely nothing.
So what if some company could be held responsible for other people’s
infringements? Another will come along, outside of the US if need be,
people said. They were right not to be concerned – that’s exactly what

Ever since, this cycle has continued. Eager to stem the tide of
content being shared without their permission, rightsholders have
advocated stronger anti-piracy enforcement and lobbied for more
restrictive interpretations of copyright law. Thus far, however,
literally nothing has provided a solution.

One would have thought that given the military-style raid on Kim
Dotcom’s Megaupload, a huge void would’ve appeared in the sharing
landscape. Instead, the file-locker business took itself apart and
reinvented itself in jurisdictions outside the United States.
Meanwhile, the BitTorrent scene continued in the background, somewhat

With the SOPA debacle still fresh in relatively recent memory,
copyright holders are still doggedly pursuing their aims.
Site-blocking is rampant, advertisers are being pressured into
compliance, and ISPs like Cox Communications now find themselves
responsible for the infringements of their users. But has any of this
caused any fatal damage to the sharing landscape? Not really.

Instead, we’re seeing a rise in the use of streaming sites, each far
more accessible to the newcomer than their predecessors and vastly
more difficult for copyright holders to police.

Systems built into Kodi are transforming these platforms into a
plug-and-play piracy playground, one in which sites skirt US law and
users can consume both at will and in complete privacy. Meanwhile,
commercial and unauthorized IPTV offerings are gathering momentum,
even as rightsholders try to pull them back.

Faced with problems like these we are now seeing calls for even
tougher legislation. While groups like the RIAA dream of filtering the
Internet, over in the UK a 2017 consultation had copyright holders
excited that end users could be criminalized for simply consuming
infringing content, let alone distributing it.

While the introduction of both or either of these measures would cause
uproar (and rightly so), history tells us that each would fail in its
stated aim of stopping piracy. With that eventuality all but
guaranteed, calls for even tougher legislation are being readied for
later down the line.

In short, there is no law that can stop piracy and therefore no law
that will stop the entertainment industries coming back for harsher
measures, pursuing the dream. This much we’ve established from close
to two decades of litigation and little to no progress.

But really, is anyone genuinely surprised that they’re still taking
this route? Draconian efforts to maintain control over the
distribution of content predate the file-sharing wars by a couple of
hundred years, at the very least. Why would rightsholders stop now,
when the prize is even more valuable?

No one wants a minefield of copyright law. No one wants a restricted
Internet. No one wants extended liability for innovators, service
providers, or the public. But this is what we’ll get if this problem
isn’t solved soon. Something drastic needs to happen, but who will be
brave enough to admit it, let alone do something about it?

During a discussion about piracy last year on the BBC, the interviewer
challenged a caller who freely admitted to pirating sports content
online. The caller’s response was clear:

For far too long, broadcasters and rightsholders have abused their
monopoly position, charging ever-increasing amounts for popular
content, even while making billions. Piracy is a natural response to
that, and effectively a chance for the little guy to get back some
control, he argued.

Exactly the same happened in the music market during the late 1990s
and 2000s. In response to artificial restriction of the market and the
unrealistic hiking of prices, people turned to peer-to-peer networks
for their fix. Thanks to this pressure but after years of turmoil,
services like Spotify emerged, converting millions of former pirates
in the process. Netflix, it appears, is attempting to do the same
thing with video.

When people feel that they aren’t getting ripped off and that they
have no further use for sub-standard piracy services in the face of
stunning legal alternatives, things will change. But be under no
illusion, people won’t be bullied there.

If we end up with an Internet stifled in favor of rightsholders, one
in which service providers are too scared to innovate, the next
generation of consumers will never forget. This will be a major
problem for two key reasons. Not only will consumers become enemies
but piracy will still exist. We will have come full circle, fueled
only by division and hatred.

It’s a natural response to reject monopolistic behavior and it’s a
natural response, for most, to be fair when treated with fairness.
Destroying freedom is far from fair and will not create a better
future – for anyone.

Laws have their place, no sane person will argue against that, but
when the entertainment industries are making billions yet still want
more, they’ll have to decide whether this will go on forever with
building resentment, or if making a bit less profit now makes more
sense longer term.
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