The content industry is living in cloud cuckoo land

Amid a concerted international effort by the entertainment industry to combat links pages, which saw The Pirate Bay shut down by the Swedish police last week (already resurrected), I thought in this week’s column in Expansión, Spain’s leading financial daily, I would discuss what I think will be the likely outcome of closing down such pages: a return to the original, completely decentralized P2P model. My argument is based on a fascinating interview with the remarkable Peter Sunde, in which he argues The Pirate Bay should stay closed.

We have gone from a situation whereby it was possible to exploit the resources that a slow-footed content industry couldn’t or wouldn’t make good use of, to one whereby the owners of links pages are making money (nothing like the absurd amounts cited regularly in the media) out of other people’s creativity, and paying them nothing in return. But the problem here is that for every Pirate Bay that the entertainment industry succeeds in closing down, another one simply steps in to fill the gap. In other words, a different solution has to be found, which means thinking about using new, alternative technologies that would encourage the industry, or any others that might appear, as many have, to offer its products to the public in new and varied ways.

Below, my column and the full translation:

Tilting at windmills

The content industry’s offensive against P2P pages is spreading fear and loathing among sectors of the public not so much used to accessing movies, music, and books for free, but obtaining them without restrictions or on the basis of which part of the world they live in.

For years now we in Spain have seen how movies or television series are released first in one country, and that they either take months to arrive here, or sometimes never find a distributor. So, we would go to The Pirate Bay or some other links page and there they would be. But that doesn’t make us “pirates”, we’re simply trying to find a way to access a product in a poorly supplied market. In other words, downloading, as we are already noticing, stops when Spanish distributors or television stations show movies or television series the day after they have been premiered in their home country, not as a result of tougher measures to stop downloading.

At the same time, sites such as The Pirate Bay and so many other do not deserve to be defended. We have known for a while now that they are taking advantage of a market that the entertainment industry is too dumb to make money out of supplying, and that the likes of The Pirate Bay are instead making money out of other people’s hard work.

The point is that we no longer need The Pirate Bay. They make life easier, but they’re not necessary. We’re going to see a return to the P2P page in its purest form, with decentralized indexes, to healthy figures. Links pages helped, and they took advantage of a particular moment, but their profits were morally unjustifiable, at least that is what Peter Sunde, one of the founders of The Pirate Bay, said earlier this week. They served their purpose, and went too far. We must now focus on the next challenge.

If the entertainment industry really believes that closing down The Pirate Bay really means that all its problems are solved, then it is living in cloud cuckoo land. The problem isn’t the existence of links pages, which are always going to be with us: the entertainment industry is the problem. Nope, its problems aren’t about to disappear any time soon.