Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Server Operators And The Media

Xeni Jardin is liveblogging the MPAA press conference on new lawsuits against server operators who maintain BitTorrent and eDonkey servers on four continents.No details as yet on which servers are being sued. Of course, the media industry could have chosen to work with these server operators by offering pay-per-download content to their users, thus addressing the problem by enfolding the trouble-makers.

The MPAA's antipiracy chief John Malcolm is now saying of today's actions, "They are aimed at individuals who operate servers and websites which by design allow people to engage in copyright infringement. They are cogs in the piracy machine. They are traffic cops connecting those who wish to steal movies with those who have copies. They could stop infringment but have chosen not to.

"Those people who operate these servers... are parasites leeching off the creativity of others.

The media industry, like all monopolies knows that it's worth lies in being able to control access to information. While this can be done for positive reasons, the history of the human race shows that all mechanisms of social control tend to corruption. The media industry is under threat from free sources of information - ref wikinews, wikipedia, the blogosphere and independent creative artists like never before. Even technological advances like the new DVD standard are seen as threats - ref Variety's concern that larger DVDs will lead to more piracy (Subscription).

Of course, one is conflicted about this issue. If it meant a decline in creativity and commercially supported artistic expression, it might mean a return to medieaval times, where patron-supported art was the only kind available, and the common person had little or no access to art. At the same time, there does not seem to have been a noticeable decline in output or quality over the last few years despite the explosion in piracy and file-sharing.

A constructive response might have been to assemble a group of smart consultants and ask them to come up with viable solution options to the problems. Right of the top of one's head, one can think of stuff like pay-per-download, Rhapsody-like services and time-limited downloads. The optimal solution will win in the marketplace and the war for ideas. These measures and the corresponding bad press only serve to alienate the intermediaries of artists and the consumers of their art.

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