Avast ye, Google

Pirate Bay trial ends in a guilty verdict, after the prosecution dropped half the original charges and rephrased the remainder to fit in with an understanding of how the site actually worked. It’s a qualified victory for the music industry, and the comment from the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry (“It would have been very difficult to put on a brave face if we had lost, but this verdict sends a strong educational and deterrent message”) is wringing with relief. Guardian blogger Jack Schofield wonders if Google will be next, and is quite keen that it is: “Still, it would be interesting to see Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt jailed as well.”

There’s quite a high-powered crowd of media people who seem to share Schofield’s interest:

Rupert Murdoch accused Google in a speech of “stealing copyrights.” Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson called Google and other aggregators “parasites or tapeworms,” charging Google and other unnamed aggregators with the crime of “encouraging promiscuity” (managing to combine fear of Google and fear of sex, in what could be a model platform for the Republican Party in 2010).

The Big Money, Death a la carte

For people who publish the news, Murdoch and Thomson don’t seem to read an awful lot of it: the track record of efforts to prosecute the sharing of copyrighted information is supremely lousy. Taking down file-sharing individuals and facilitating websites hasn’t stopped other individuals and new websites from using the same technology (and more ferociously), and since text is even easier to copy and transmit than music and movies, it’s even less likely that squeezing a search engine will have any permanent effect.

And what about that “educational message” the IFPI was so pleased with? The hope of copyright holders is to teach their potential audience that everything they read, see or hear has to be paid for: it’s an incredibly mean message and one that’s totally opposed to the nature of culture and information. Like almost everyone, I’ve exchanged CDs and mixtapes, loaned books and DVDs, shared newspapers – because when something is exciting or important, you want to share it. There’s an obvious quantitative difference in digital reproduction, but qualitatively, it feels like sharing and not stealing. By trying to stick a price on everything, copyright holders risk sucking the value out of their own product.

7 thoughts on “Avast ye, Google

  1. A possible reason for the type of action of stealing copyrighted ‘WORK’ is that those who wish to control the world’s populace can do so by making those who CAN and WILL WRITE about a subject 1.) NOT be recognized for their craft. 2.) Not receive the COMPENSATIONS for their WORK, thus making the world “DUMBER” yet. Follow the money !!!

  2. It’s a self-destructive ‘victory’ because nobody HAS to buy any of this content in the first place. The paradigm has shifted and the business model needs to follow. Find another way to make money, entertainment industry. If the choice is between consuming the product for free and not consuming it, it’s easy to walk away.

    One comment under the Guardian article mentioned that the Pirate Bay site was making lots of money off advertising while people downloaded their ‘stolen’ media. Why don’t the copyright holders emulate this business model rather than trying to revive the dead old dinosaur? A five-year-old could explain that logic to them. The future of monetising media lies somewhere other than asking people to buy it, no matter how shrill the industry’s luddite ‘Bring Back The Shilling’ style campaign. They’re just risking alienating their core consumers altogether.

  3. Bang on with the first point. Every download isn’t a lost sale, and it might be a new fan made and future sales secured. I’m not sure that advertiser-funded model is going to work for music (this article from Slate http://www.slate.com/id/2216162/ puts the recent Youtube-vs-PRS spat into perspective – presumably, Billy Bragg is looking for a chunk of that planet-dwarfing loss), but I’m sure there’s something better than litigation for publishers and labels to pursue.

  4. Wait, Murdoch and Thomson think Google and the other search engines are robbers and parasites?

    So presumably they don’t really want the hits to their papers’ websites from search engines? They won’t have someone doing search engine optimisation to drive traffic to their sites?

    Because they never intend to make any money from their sites by showing advertisers what a lot of readers they have… yeah, right. Rupert Murdoch, modest small-scale newsman with no cross-platform interests. At all.

    I mean far be it from me to suggest Murdoch is a hypocrite – it’s quite a way down the list after his other crimesin my book. But is he really going to lose more dosh from failing to charge the search engines than he will eventually make by using them?

    I know he will want it both ways, but is that really the way the figures stack up? I genuinely don’t know, but it seems a bit questionable.

  5. Oh hang on, I’m over hasty. The article you linked to sort of deals with this, by pointing out that revenue from news on the web is low.

    But my understanding is that this will shift over time. The Guardian didn’t start off making money from its website – but I thought it now did… at any rate, major news orgs are clearly going online because they think that is something that will develop usefully – ie profitably – for them at some point in the future.

    So my question is still this: on a long-term basis, surely Murdoch will gain from search engine trafic in the end? It’s just that I don’t think the guy has web interests out of charity or as a plaything. He’s not the type.

  6. Advertiser funding isn’t the only model that doesn’t involve “buying” the media. e.g. Spotify (whose free offer is funded by advertising but who also provide a subscription service).

    The problem is still that Spotify doesn’t have the content. Sure, I can listen to Lily Allen on there, and find about 50% of the decent music I want to listen to but it just doesn’t compare to a decent torrenttracker. There’s stuff available as torrents that I simply can’t get hold of anywhere else: deleted vinyl, rare blues recordings, obscure techno and microtonal madness. Spotify might suit a Radio1 listener, but it’s not going to suit a music fan.

    The moment someone offers me a subscription service that’s as good as Audiogalaxy used to be before they shut it down, I’ll sign up. Until then, I’m going to be using torrents, slsk etc to get the music they refuse to license to Spotify.

    I’m a musician myself and, though my releases pay for themselves and little else, I know many people who make their money through it. Like me, they *all* download lots of music. Like me, they also buy lots. Personally, my typical music shopping experience involves spotting something I’ve already listened to 30 times and deciding “I should pay for this now”. But having to make this kind of effort of willpower in order to support the artists I love is fucking ridiculous. The RIAA etc just needs to accept that the solution is to charge for the service everyone wants (and can currently get for free), not try to shut it down and then force everyone to pay for a crippled version instead.

    I’m sure it’s the same with film, if that’s your thing. I have a friend who uses some private film torrent tracker that has films he simply couldn’t get hold of any other way.

    I think I have this discussion about twice a month in various places round the internet :)

  7. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t be listing hypocrisy as one of Murdoch’s lesser crimes, since he is himself a robber and parasite who makes an enormous pile of dosh in this country and – last I heard – pays not a penny in taxes.

    Not that Google are the sweetie pies they make themselves out to be either.

    (Sorry, I am back here because I keep reading more Pirate Bay/Google stuff, so it is stuck in my brain)

Comments are closed.