Illegal file sharing websites such as Napster, Bit torrent, Kazaa, Limewire and The Pirate Bay are now universally popular among Internet users and the bane of the music industry. While I have never (ahem) used any of these websites myself, they are nonetheless widely used by pretty much everyone else.
The problem, it seems, is pretty bad in China. Facilitated by infamously relaxed attitudes to intellectual property rights, “China rejoices in being bottom — 24th — of the trademark, patent and copyright indexes” for GIPI (Global intellectual property index). Never afraid of a good deal, Beijingers are making the most of this online treasure trove. During a 24-hour period in February, The Pirate Bay discovered 3.3million unique users in China, 22.4% of which were on their particular file-sharing site. I don’t want to be a whistle-blower but chances are your kid’s downloading music illegally, don’t worry though, everybody is.
The attraction of such websites is fairly obvious, providing the user with free access to a vast array of songs that can then be put onto an ipod, laptop or any mp3 player. The problem? From 2006 Illegal file sharing has been just that – illegal. What’s more, the music industry now perceives peer-to-peer file sharing as a “major threat”
to both the creativity and productivity of the industry. Attention has switched from the websites to the Internet users themselves, with legal action now being taken against downloaders rather than the websites facilitating them.
So where does that leave normal Internet users? Well, in the case of a very small and unlucky minority, a hefty fine
like that accumulated by Joel Tenebaum from Rhode Island USA, who is currently facing a lawsuit to the tune of $4.5 million. The desired effect of these largely isolated cases is to shock and scare people into not using these sites.
Whilst the case of Mr. Tenebaum is noteworthy, the simple fact remains that cases like his are literally are one-in-a-billion. Furthermore, Mr. Tenebaum received a letter of warning that he chose to ignore, hence the large fine. Given these conditions, and despite the hard-hitting nature of the headlines, record labels are fighting a losing battle.
A better approach to combating illegal music sharing seems to be coming through France, which in April launched its own internet policing agency. Rather than hitting users with a killer fine, they revoking the offender’s access to the internet. It may have a touch of Orwell about it, and certainly isn’t too consistent with the notion of French liberty, but measures such as these could be the answer record companies are looking for. Plus if it stops parents finding a multi-million fine and court order on the doormat, I suspect it might well take-off.
I’m sad to say that we may be looking at the end of the file-sharing industry. If the current anti-downloading frenzy in the US and Europe makes it’s way out to China then very soon it might be time to put the internet away and bring out the old tapes/records/CD’s (delete age appropriately). Assuming you haven’t already shared them illegally of course.