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MegaUpload

I’m not a great fan of draconian laws intended to strengthen copyright restrictions and to combat piracy. I think it’s important that people should be rewarded for their creative work, but I don’t think that’s what so-called intellectual property protection, copyright enforcement, or anti-piracy laws are really all about. What they are primarily about is protecting the immoral and antiquated business model which media (movies, music, books, etc) companies currently enjoy.

The greatest part of the price the consumer pays for these items goes to individuals and companies other than the artists who originally created the work. In many cases the actual creator could do a lot better if they could bypass the publisher or distributor. And that’s what the internet allows which is why these corporations are so enthusiastic about shutting it down.

I recently saw a graphic which divided up where the money goes from the price we pay for a CD. It showed the record company making about 70%, the artist about 1% and the producer, manager, and studio, etc making the rest. I suspect this isn’t accurate but according to other sources the artist gets at most about 16%.

So yet again we have a case of worthless parasites (business people, lawyers, accountants) exploiting both the artists and the consumer (you and me) so you can see why some people feel justified in bypassing the corrupt system and acquiring their music and movies by other means.

I don’t support piracy in most cases but I would rather have piracy than restrictive laws which cripple the freedom of the internet. So if I was a person charged with enforcing the law I would ignore most of what currently goes on but I wouldn’t extend that to people who are professional pirates.

I’m usually hesitant to criticise sites which encourage file sharing, but the alleged piracy site, MegaUpload, which has recently been raided by the New Zealand police, is an interesting case. The rather suspicious seeming founder of the site, Kim Dotcom, was allowed into New Zealand despite his rather dubious background. That was an interesting decision and there are now allegations he “bought” his way into the country – something which seems entirely possible.

I think everyone agrees that swapping of copyright material does happen at this site but that doesn’t mean the owners are responsible for that activity and it doesn’t mean that they technically broke any laws. After all, whether something is immoral or ethical has little to do with whether it is legal or not.

There is also the consideration that Dotcom has made a fortune from this site plus his mansion contained many weapons: both legal and illegal. The police assault on the place, with a helicopter and armed defenders, did seem a bit over the top though. Are there not more important crime-related problems we can spend this sort of money on?

Another interesting event related to this whole sorry story is the attacks by the “Anonymous” movement who retaliated against the organisations who originated the charges by attacking several sites, including the Universal Music Group and the US Justice Department.

Some people have labelled Anonymous as terrorists, criminals, or hackers. Well according to some definitions they are, but they could also be labelled as activists who are doing what they think is right. Sure, they are using illegal tactics but when the laws exist almost solely for the benefit of big corporations who can blame them? Again, I don’t want to see laws broken without good cause but at the same time people must do what they think is right.

The internet is currently under attack. Sure, in some ways it is the “wild west” but do we really want it subdued and turned into yet another tool for making the corporations even richer and more powerful? If a corporation can use the internet in a positive way then that’s fine. I buy stuff at the iTunes and app stores because they work well, have reasonable prices, and return most of what I pay to the actual developer (70% to the developers of iPhone apps). That’s reasonable and if the traditional media companies gave us what we wanted at a fair price I think people would avoid piracy. But they’re too ignorant and arrogant to do that. Who are the real criminals here?

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