Chemeketa Courier

A look into internet piracy


By Brian Leupold

Pirating files from the internet is illegal, addicting, and changing the way that we consume and distribute media.
A war is raging around the globe, one that reaches this very campus. And with no simple solution in sight, the fight continues.
Piracy is nothing new.
Back in the 1980s, people were copying floppy discs and trading games for their Apple IIe. Programs such as Disc Muncher stripped games of their copy protection and made it simple to illegally share the software.
“It is getting increasingly difficult if not impossible to encapsulate discreet units of information and sell them,” Yochai Benkler, a Yale Law School Graduate, said.
To better understand internet piracy, we should take a look at Napster, one of the first big file-sharing sites that focused on music.
Napster used at the time a new technology called P2P, or peer to peer, networking. Basically, P2P enabled users to download files quickly.
A new CD by your favorite artist was a mouse click away, and in mere minutes you could be listening to that Grateful Dead CD that retails for $16.99 for free.
Or better yet, how about every Grateful Dead album ever made?
No problem. Click.
“Ever since Napster, the music industry has been trying to shut down file sharing,” Aaron Swarts, the co-founder of reddit.com, said.
Napster allowed millions of consumers to get music that was copyright-protected for free.
The practice quickly got the attention of the Recording Industry Association of America; its officials were not amused and promptly filed a lawsuit against Napster that led to its eventual undoing.
Currently owned by Best Buy, Napster today continues to offer music with a legitimate pay-to-play model.
But Napster was a breakthrough: Millions of people were suddenly used to free music. And while Napster was gone, the file sharing snowball had started to roll and wasn’t about to stop.
Other P2P sites started to pop up overnight. The war against internet piracy was just getting started, and nobody knew how to stop it.
The documentary Steal This Film addressed the issue: “You can`t just shut down file sharing; you would need to snip every computer cord in every home.”
So how do you stop illegal file sharing?
Attorney Fred von Lohmann, who appeared in Steal This Film, said, “They are going after a few to scare the masses, like mounting the heads of a few villagers as a warning to all.”
Industry executives are adept at making examples out of some offenders. For example, Jammie Thomas Rasset of Minnesota was fined $1.5 million for pirating 20 songs in 2010.
“We know and recognize we can never stop internet pirating, but we will try and make it as tedious and hard as we can; if you get caught, there will be consequences,” Dan Glickman, the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said.
Chemeketa’s Jeff Moore, from the college’s IT department, has a different approach.
”Unfortunately, a lot of people take a view that software is made by some huge faceless corporation, and this view enables people to detach from the reality, which is that these programs and software that people pirate are written by people just like you and me,” he said.
“These are people who put their heart and soul into creating something new and exciting for the world and have a wonderful opportunity to make a living doing so. Once it is made personal, once folks associate a face or a name to these products, they tend to think before pirating.
“I have found that in general, people are much more empathetic than you expect.”
Michael Bates, a computer instructor at Chemeketa, also has strong opinions about illegal downloading.
“People first need to be educated about it. If pirating continues, it will stop the creative output,” he said.
Bates said he understood that if someone wrote an awesome program and people did not buy it but just copied it, there would be no incentive for the programmer to continue.
“Technology has outgrown laws or social norms,” he said.
Everyone knows that it is illegal to copy protected files. But if that’s the case, why did five of the 10 Chemeketa students who were recently randomly polled admit to illegal downloading?
In a word: money.
“I am a hypocrite,” said TJ, who asked that his real name not be used because he, like other students, was concerned about being arrested if identified. “I know file sharing is wrong, but I do it anyway. It’s addicting.”
Another student, who also didn’t want his name used for fear of getting busted, said, “When I earn enough money to pay for programs, I will. In the meantime, I hope I don’t get caught.”
What some people don’t realize is that every time you share files on the internet, you leave a trail of breadcrumbs.
Roll the dice and pay the price, as the saying goes.
Some critics argue that the effect of pirating is hard to monitor and that there has never been a model like this before.
A 2010 in-depth study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that it was difficult, if not impossible, to qualify the economy-wide impact of pirating.
The financial, ethical, and social implications are still being examined.
Other critics argue that pirating actually helps some artists because their work is spread from computer to computer, and no-name artists therefore have become popular, creating a new fan-base.
The idea that downloading copyrighted material is harmless is a common thread among several Chemeketa students and alumni.
Mark, another Chemeketa student who asked that his last name be withheld, said, “I can’t afford to pay for certain software that I can get for free on the internet. It’s just a click away.”
A sort of Robin Hood mentality exists, where pirates believe that wealthy artists won’t miss a few sales.
Others think that it is wrong but is not a big deal, akin to a parking violation.
The problem is not hard to figure out: If everyone downloaded movies, music, and software without paying anything back, eventually the artists and programmers and musicians would stop producing material because they would be broke.
Pirates such as those behind The Pirate Bay, one of the internet’s biggest file-sharing sites, suggest that the internet is based on the idea of sharing information, so building fences or ownership around media, programs, and music won’t work.
They maintain that social people will share files no matter what, and that the industry needs to create a new model that fits this digital age.
“Intellectual property rights is the oil of the 21st century,” Mark Getty said. He is the owner of Getty Images and the grandson of oil magnate J. Paul Getty.
If this is true, then combatants on both sides of this issue maintain that this really is a war – one that will be waged for a long time to come.