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Saturday, January 28, 2012

The (new) death of filesharing?

The arrests of the masterminds behind MegaUpload are the latest chapter in the war of intellectual property rights on the Internet. This war has been raging since the beginning of the century. Remember Napster? AudioGalaxy? Limewire? BearShare? Pirate Bay? Pretty much all a memory. And now the government is going whole hog on this thing, and MegaUpload is the latest casualty. And this one is huge. Let's face it, Kim Dotcom and his buddies are screwed.

Apparently it's scaring a bunch of others too. FilesTube, TurboBit, RapidShare and other file hosting sites have been killing links or closing up shop like crazy since the arrests. Music sharing bloggers (ARRRRRR!!!) are scrambling to re-up their music or rethink their methods. I'd love to see a web analytic of some kind showing how many dead links there are on the Net now compared to just a week or two ago.

The thing is, no matter what, the entertainment industry waited too long to do anything about this. The creation of the MP3 should not equal the end of CD and movie ticket & DVD sales, but they sat on their hands for too long bitching about it instead of figuring out how their business models could grow with the times and embrace technology instead of fighting against it. It's called progress.

Honestly, though, haven't they learned that no matter what they do to fight this scourge of file sharing, another outfit will come along behind the wreckage and build a new empire? There's got to be another way to address this issue. I'm convinced that suing 12-year-old girls and their grandmothers for tens of thousands of dollars is not the answer. Too, sweeping legislation that has the potential to chill free speech, reach across the globe, and essentially put our vast and incredible World Wide Web under the controlling thumb of the U.S. entertainment industry is not the answer.

This whole thing at first reminded me a lot of the tape trading that went on in the early '80s, especially in the burgeoning heavy metal scene. There's a difference now, though. Tape trading served a purpose. There was little to no radio airplay of metal bands in those days (a practice which continues 30+ years later), and fans traded dubbed copies of tapes, created mix tapes, etc. to their friends to get the word out about their favorite bands. That's how much of the nation discovered Metallica initially.

Even up to when Napster hit the scene in the late 20th Century, there was still that sort of file swapping that, due to bandwidth limitations, mostly of dial-up connections, was limited to merely discovery of single tracks (usually at no higher than 128 to 192 kbps bit rate), which prompted users to seek out full album purchases.

Once high-speed Internet service went mainstream, everything changed. The world was no longer illegally sharing single, low quality songs, but full CDs and DVDs at the highest quality possible. And in many cases, doing it more quickly than they were downloading the single tracks a few years earlier. Today, in 2012, there's no denying that the teens growing up are having an issue actually associating this behavior with theft. And it's rampant.

I repeat: there's got to be a way to address it, but we haven't found it yet. Honestly, I think that the MegaUpload bust is going to make more ripples throughout the online community than any of the previous skirmishes, but it won't end there. The pirates will forge on.