Source: Google Images

Modern Day Pirates

In 2012 the United States congress put on hold a proposed bill, referred to as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which was proposed in response to lobbying by Big Medias wishing to put an end to online piracy. If passed, the bill would have allowed the US court to serve orders requiring foreign websites to cease providing access to infringing copies of US works, and to Internet intermediaries requiring them to block peoples’ access to certain domain names (Samuelson 2012, p. 26). However, the bill failed in response to strong opposition from tech companies and computer security experts who claimed that the law would undermine the security and stability of the Internet, and would be ineffective (Samuelson 2012, p. 26).

Despite the fact that SOPA was never passed in the United States, is online piracy really a criminal act? As Samuelson explains, downloading music is really not in the same league as armed attacks on ships (2012, p. 25). Arguments against piracy claim that it has a negative impact on artists who don’t receive the royalties that they would it their product was purchased legally, however as explained by Sebastian Anthony, is in fact the Big Medias (such as record companies and distribution companies) who are the losing as a result of piracy, as they are the ones receiving the bulk of the money made- artists receive only 10% of the price of a song, album or movie when purchased legally (2013, p. 38).

Recently, co-founder of the popular piracy site “The Pirate Bay” (thepiratebay.se), Peter Sunde, was arrested and charged for breach of copyright law (among other things). Sunde is now in jail, however The Pirate Bay continues to exist and be accessed by millions of people every day. Doctorow’s (2007) analogy that “taking a piece of information off the internet is like getting food colouring out of a swimming pool” can here be used to argue against the enactment of anti-piracy laws: although the government can legislate to prevent people from accessing piracy websites, or to punish people for illegally downloading files, such websites will still exist, and therefore no law will ever be able to completely prevent piracy from occurring.

References:

Anthony, S 2013, A Case for Piracy, PC Magazine, retrieved 18 August 2014, < http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9fd98646-e054-434b-85bc-d05ed5ae3042%40sessionmgr4003&vid=6&hid=4203>.

Doctorow, C 2007, ‘Free Data Sharing Is Here To Stay’, The Guardian, 18 September, retrieved 18 September, < http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2007/sep/18/informationeconomy>.

Samuelson, P 2012, ‘Can Online Piracy Be Stopped By Laws?’, Communications of the ACM, vol. 55, no. 7, pp. 25–27, doi: 10.1145/2209249.2209260.