Tuesday, November 3, 2009

60 Minutes and the MPAA: Part II - Pirates and pirates

OK, I'll say it again: Copyright violation is illegal. Don't do it.

However, if you're doing an investigative piece on video piracy, it would seem useful to distinguish various kinds of piracy. Otherwise there's a risk of throwing out a figure like $6 billion, showing pictures of convicted gang members and later an animation sort of depicting BitTorrent, and having people think that online file sharing sends $6 billion a year into the pockets of gangsters. Not that anyone would ever want to suggest such a thing.

In fact, there are pirates, and then there are pirates.
  • Gangs make money by selling counterfeit DVDs of movies. The practice is particularly rife (and as I understand it, more in a legal gray area) in Asia.
  • People trade movies on the internet. No money changes hands.
Lumping all of this under the label "video piracy" captures some common features, particularly that both are illegal and there's a case to be made that both cost studios money, but it ignores the obvious difference in motivation. Busting people on the street is not going to stop file sharing, and somehow shutting down file sharing would not stop people from selling DVDs on the street.

Two different problems, two (largely) different sets of people, and most likely two different solutions.

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