Most articles summarize like: Yes! fine them bastards! If they share, if they distribute copyright protected material, mess with intellectual property they deserve being sued and sentenced.
Today we are conditioned to a degree, that we are willing to accept such news without any opposition. Whoever has done a good job in spinning our perception 180 degrees, away from a public consensus about the rights of free speech and free uncensored information to willingly step aside to protect commercial interests.
Your business is based on copyright protected goods and you are pissed off by people not paying for your products? Fine, no appeal here. But that‘s not the point! Not here!
Let‘s take advantage of a different perspective for a second…
Some history – 1979 a bunch of nerds at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University developed a method for sharing data between the few calculating machines spread over the campus. This was over a decade before the World Wide Web was even invented or a general public got access to something we now call the Internet.
This was a time, when leading manufacturers of office machines like IBM or Texas Instruments predicted a worldwide market for computers not bigger but few thousand devices to be sold to universities and public archives only. I dwell on this matter, to clarify that usenet was not made up for sharing mp3, there was no mp3 back then. Usenet is one of the oldest computer network com-systems and it‘s still in use for it‘s simple but effective structure:
How does Usenet work? Information that users post to the usenet gets categorized into a simple hierarchy, topics called newsgroups which are open to any reader/ user subscribing to. Usenet does not feature admission restriction, as it‘s purpose is to share and communicate data amongst anyone interested. Doing so is the basic method for all science.
Today Usenet has diminished in importance to the general public with respect to Internet forums, blogs and mailing lists, that prove more convenient to many purposes. The main difference due to it‘s scientific basis, though, is that Usenet requires no personal registration with the group concerned, that information need not be stored on a remote server, that archives are always available, and that reading the messages requires not a mail or web client, but a news client. This all is not necessary and doesn‘t make sense for sharing information in a non commercial environment. Usenet does not reject collecting user data, but never did. Demanding to do so is sort of dictating your rules to someone that never asked for your game.
What happened could be alliterated as following: A person appears on a diner, uninvited. He brings some bottles of wine, but seeing the beautiful glasses on the table, he thinks, my wine would fit better in these but my old bottles. He pours his wine out to everyone and when people start to drink he sues them for infringement of his property.
I hear your protest – labels didn‘t give away their music to anyone, they never allowed copying. And that‘s true. But then why did they choose to reproduce their protected goods on formats that where designed for easy mass copying? Why did they provide and prepare data to distribution channels like usenet that are based on free sharing when they plan to follow a business model founded on admission restriction (only buyers allowed)?
Because no one could foresee the development the internet is going to take?
What development – Usenet already operated on file sharing since 1979 when the CD/ digital format was just invented (in the early 1980s).
Don‘t get me wrong, but when the music industry lost control about it‘s reproduction mechanisms, that‘s when things fucked up.
If you are not in charge of the formats nor the media your product is sold on – how can you direct your business? Instead of suing people enjoying music, the industry should rather think of arguing with Philips, PolyGram, Bayer or Sony – they were the ones that pushed the digital CD into a business that had no idea what the effects would be.
Content is being leaked across more static storage platforms but Usenet, including upload sites like Rapidshare. In fact, Rapidshare was recently saddled with substantial legal penalties in Germany after a case brought on by german copyright protection association (GEMA).
A Regional Court in Hamburg, Germany, has fined the file-hosting service a hefty $34 million and has ruled that the company must start proactively filtering certain content. This is labeled censorship in other contexts. Following a request made by GEMA, the Hamburg court ruled that Rapidshare is forbidden from making any of 5,000 music tracks from GEMA’s collection available on the Internet. To comply, the company needs to make sure all of those tracks are removed from its servers and also ensure that they are not uploaded again by users. How the company is expected to do the latter, especially since many users upload files in compressed formats and password-protect them, is a mystery to me.
And forbidding formats or restrict the way data is stored on a server does clearly infringe your right for privacy. But if you insist on your personal rights (your right for information derives from your positive rights of education and free speech, that is why in civilized countries debtees cannot execute/pawn your TV set) you might be labeled a pirate.
Bottom line is, all this suggests that hosting sites – including Rapidshare, box.net or else – could be subject to future RIAA action, or any collecting society or any one not interested in your personal rights any more. But will you step aside then, too?
So who‘s next?