Online Piracy: Does It Matter?
Before anyone gets ruffled, let it be said that I’m not advocating copyright infringement or piracy of copyrighted works online. After all, I’m a writer, and in the past year I’ve published four copyrighted e-books.
On each occasion, however, when Amazon asked if I wanted to turn on DRM (digital rights management), so these works couldn’t be shared, I declined. In addition, if I somehow learned that my e-books were being offered for free download on a file-sharing site, I’d frankly be honored.
My guess is that, of all the piracy that’s occurred since Napster began the file-sharing trend, either zero percent of the alleged pirates, or as close to that percentage as possible, would ever have actually paid for their downloaded products had they not been available for “free.”
So piracy, to my way of thinking, is a zero-loss game for the copyright holders. In fact, if you game the piracy system as an author or entertainer, there are even ways to increase your reach and your revenue. (Which could bring up a discussion of “freenomics,” but I’ll spare you.)
At any rate, this long musing comes courtesy of the recent $80-million settlement by file-sharing service Hotfile over its alleged enabling of piracy of copyrighted works.
As TechDirt Editor Michael Masnick notes in his review of the settlement, however, it will first of all never be paid, and if any funds do transfer hands, no artist or movie-maker will see a penny.
I suggest reading Masnick’s “MPAA ‘Settles’ Another ‘Victory’ Against Hotfile.” His conclusion is particularly cogent and spot on:
I don’t see how it’s a victory for anyone. It won’t decrease the amount of infringement. It won’t stop cyberlockers. It won’t help consumers. It won’t help movie makers. It won’t do anything, other than letting the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] declare victory.