And though they’ll hunt you like a dog
Well they won’t take you alive
Because you make them piles of money
Stacked up twenty stories high
And the boys in every bar
Will not miss you when you gone
From A Heady Tale by The Fratellis
Whenever I write about copyright issues I like to set the record straight right off the bat. Having been a software developer for my entire career and a musician who records and produces music, I am not in any way opposed to the concept of copyright or copyright law. I’m certainly do not espouse the idea that all software wants to be free nor, much as I dislike the entertainment industry, do I advocate torrenting music or movies to avoid paying. So having gotten that out of the way, I’m here to tell you that copyright enforcement is a whole other deal. Here in the US we must contend with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) who have apparently decided that it’s far easier to blame any decline in revenue on “piracy” and sue potential customers, or threaten to and hope to settle out of court, than it is to come up with a viable distribution model for the digital age. But this week our European friends get to share the pain and witness the quasi-legal shenanigans that Americans have come to know and loathe. In this story by Nick Farrell in the Inquirer we hear about an episode of what I think can best be described as cyber-bullying by a law firm in the name of copyright enforcement.
So far at least 150 innocent people have been wrongly targeted in a crackdown on illegal file-sharing that’s being conducted by the rogue law firm run amok, ACS:Law.
The outfit has sent out letters to thousands of Brits accusing them of ‘piracy’ – that’s copyright infringement to anyone not trying to whip up public sentiment for their own monetary gain – and offering them a chance to settle by paying about £500.
However, loads of people are being accused with what must be inaccurate information. One was a 78 year-old accused of downloading pornography and others are unaware of having done any downloading at all.
“My 78 year-old father yesterday received a letter from ACS Law demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have downloaded. Apparently the poor bloke does not know what file sharing is and has never even heard of BitTorrent. Nor has he given anyone else permission to use his computer.”
Which? Computing estimates that up to 50,000 letters have been sent out and is outraged that too many innocent people are being wrongly accused. Matt Bath, technology editor of Which? told the BBC that innocent consumers are being threatened with legal action for copyright infringements they not only haven’t committed, but wouldn’t know how to commit. But many “will be frightened into paying up rather than facing the stress of a court battle.”
Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law admitted that some cases had been dropped although he declined to give numbers. He told the Beeb [BBC to us yanks] that the method used to detect the IP address used for illegal downloads was foolproof, although that really does not explain why some cases needed to be dropped.
But behold, there is a glimmer of hope in this story. I mean other than the wicked sick ego and reputation boost for the 78-year-old guy accused of torrenting porn – You go, grandpa! No, I mean that you really can’t get too worried about litigation originating from a group whose spokes-weasel actually says “the method used to detect the IP address used for illegal downloads was foolproof” out loud. In public. To the press. I mean seriously, I can only assume that ACS:Law lawyers are the same class of moron as Mr. Crossley. [Andy, dude! – one word: TOR].
But sadly I don’t believe that Mr. Crossley and the gang at ACS:Law are stupid. They know very well that such a statement is ludicrous on it’s face and that no one with any kind of technical expertise will believe it. You know, the kind of technical expertise it takes to illegally torrent copyrighted material. So ACS:Law knows very well that the only folks naive enough to fall for their threats are not capable of doing what they are accusing them of. And that, my friends, smells a whole lot like cyber-bullying to me.
Meanwhile we have this dubious report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) [Note: Web of Trust (WoT) rates this site BAD in vendor reliability and privacy so be careful if you follow this link] that claims to provide a basis for such egregious behavior by the copyright gestapo. This article in Sonic State reports it like so.
The IFPI report that 95% of all music downloads are illegal – and they say that “cooperation from Internet Service Providers holds the key to this problem.”
The IFPI made the announcement as part of their Digital Music Report 2009:
Piracy is the major barrier to growth of the legitimate digital music sector and is causing severe damage to local music industries around the world.
Three of the world’s biggest music markets, all heavily dependent on local repertoire – France, Spain and Brazil – have seen a sharp slump in the fortunes of their local music industries:
- In Spain, which has one of the highest rates of illegal file-sharing in Europe, sales by local artists in the top 50 have fallen by an estimated 65% between 2004 and 2009;
- France, where a quarter of the internet population downloads illegally, has seen local artist album releases fall by 60% between 2003 and 2009;
- In Brazil, full priced major label local album releases from the five largest music companies in 2008 were down 80% from their 2005 level.
The report shows that, while the music industry has increased its digital revenues by 940% since 2004, piracy has been the major factor behind the overall global market decline of around 30% in the same period.
Okay… So let me get this straight. All of the music purchased and downloaded from iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Walmart, Napster and Rhapsody plus all of the smaller independent music label sites like Matador Records and individual artist sites together make up only 5% of music downloads? And that 25% of the internet population of France downloads illegally? And this is what is responsible for the 80% drop in full priced major label local album releases in Brazil? I don’t know what those IFPI guys have been smoking but they’d sure have a better chance of convincing me if I had some too. I mean seriously how would you find out that a quarter of the internet population downloads illegally in France and how can you correlate that to local artist album releases fall by 60% between 2003 and 2009. Hello! This is the internet. It’s everywhere. Like lint. And the copyright gestapo. What’s worse is that these bozos (or is that beau zauxs) are trying to convince ISPs that they should collude with the copyright gestapo. And the really sad thing is that some ISPs are going to buy into this nonsense. Let’s be clear here. I sympathize with the musicians who have seen sales of their albums decline. And I also sympathize with their unemployed fans who can no longer afford to buy music. What I don’t sympathize with is the copyright gestapo and their cyber-bullying.