Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Cure for Internet Piracy

Recently published statistics on Internet traffic volumes (read here) raise a few interesting insights.
According to the stats, bit-torrent is still the number one use of Internet facilities, at least as far as bandwidth is concerned. If anything, bit-torrent keeps on getting stronger and stronger. Given that the bulk of bit-torrent traffic is made of pirated material this says something about the phenomenon called Internet piracy: to say it is rife is an understatement. To say that many people indulge in it is an understatement, too. Piracy over the Internet, as per the stats, is not a marginal exception; it is the rule to which billions of dollars worth of infrastructure is devoted. The people are voting with their keyboards.
There is nothing new in the above observation, though. What is new pops up when dividing USA Internet traffic from European one. In the USA, and for the first time in a long while, bit-torrent has been relegated to second place in the bandwidth department. The new number one is Netflix. In Europe, however, where Netflix does not exist, bit-torrent is still the undisputed number one, putting all the web pages, all the Googles and the Facebooks to shame.
What is Netflix? I cannot give a qualified answer there as Netflix is a service that is available in the USA alone. By my understanding, Netflix is a service where a monthly fee of $8 gets you free access to library of all the films and TV material you could dream of (do correct me if I'm wrong!).
The way I see it, the arguments are clear:
  • Once a better alternative to piracy becomes available, most people will go for it.
  • The main reason piracy is popular is not because it's free (it isn't; any download costs you money). It is because piracy offers a superior product.
  • The contents companies, be it record labels, movie studios or book publishers, are so busy clinging to their mid twentieth century business models they can't see a good thing when it happens. Why the hell is Netflix available in the USA alone?
Instead of opening us all to new horizons, the copyright collective has other ideas. Last week we read about them wanting to have a new tax on all digital storage media (read here); no, that tax would not mean that from now on you're allowed to copy, it would just mean extra money in their coffers. This week we read the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is seeking permission to be able to browse contents people store up in the cloud for pirated material (read here).
Stupidity, it seems, has never been better funded.

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