Posts Tagged ‘Piracy’

No more letters of marque

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

As early as the sixteenth century, countries were turning pirates to their cause by retitling them in exchange for not attacking the nation’s ships. By granting letters of marque, pirates were made privateers. In exchange for not attacking ships flying the colors of that nation, these pirates would not be attacked by the warships of that nation, but would have to give a portion of the spoils for attacking other ships. I think many pirate vessels found this to be an acceptable compromise; they didn’t have to give up their ways, but got some measure of safety out of it. From the nations point of view, they didn’t have to expend resources protecting their own ships from these pirates, but also got a kickback from it. They adapted to the situation at hand rather then trying to fight tooth and nail, a fight that would have cost them elsewhere if it was successful at all.

The Pirate Bay logo

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I ran across an article on TorrentFreak talking about the death of the music industry. As many of you who follow such news have heard, the creators of The Pirate Bay, a torrent sharing site, are being held on trial (with the prosecution failing from what I’ve read). What I find more interesting, barely anyone who doesn’t follow this kind of news knows of this upcoming trial, showing how little the sharing of music and videos actually matters to the public at large. The general public doesn’t care about file sharing… they’ll be upset when musicians become responsible and don’t make up tabloid headlines with drug problems and who’s dating who. But I digress.

Personally, I think the music industry missed out on a golden ticket. Most of what I say from here on out is speculation, but I would guess that most people who illegally download music, movies, and games do it for convenience. I’m sure that the big companies could make an easy coin if they accepted new technologies instead of fighting them. Why did iTunes do so well? If people could get movies and music for free, why is it that they still buy music online? iTunes does some specific things correctly:

  • Cheap music
  • The ability to download what you want instead of paying for material you might not want
  • Simple, straight forward service and interface
Image representing hulu as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via Crunchbase

Now, iTunes has its problems too, such as DRM. But services like NetFlix, allowing people to rent movies for periods of times they choose, plus having online options, gave people incentives to sign up with them. Websites such as Hulu allow people to watch popular TV shows when they want, as they want, with little delay and few problems.

What I see is this: if the large companies, instead of suing grandmas and single parents, offered their music and movies through their own services are reasonable prices with reasonable features, they’d continue rolling in the dough (that I really don’t think they deserve). But they’re fighting technology. This has worked for years, when we had a relatively isolated society, where communication even city to city was either a phone call or mail that took a few days. The companies had the power, in that they controlled information, and they controlled the material. We live in a new age today, where the next city is equivalent to the next country. They no longer control the information, and rather then adapt to their situation, they fought it.

We’ve living in an age of information, and more importantly, we’ve living in an age of openness. The internet allows everyone access to information they may have never been able to access before. The internet allows people to communicate with people they never knew existed before. The internet allows people to publish their own information in ways they couldn’t do before. And the internet pushed these fat cats over. More and more, people refuse to simply be told what to do… options are opening up, thinking is on the rise. But this doesn’t mean people are rampant criminals. People will do whats right more often then not. Unlike the old days though, you won’t be able to make privateers of these pirates. What you can do is convince more pirates to give up their ways, and it won’t be by threatening the noose.

So here’s my thoughts or solution. First, music, movie, and game producers need to stop treating customers like renters and thieves. Limited activations and DRMs (like the infamous Spore release) make people on the edge want to give in to their less legal impulses. Yes, you’re going to lose money on resales, but when you’re putting out shitty material, why would I want to keep it? And when your customer support sucks and I’m out of activations, I’ve paid for a very shiny coaster. When you stop treating us like we did something wrong by giving you money, you’ll find more people are likely to give you money.

Join the 21st century and start providing reasonable web services. You can outdo iTunes if you try. People don’t want full albums, usually they only want a few songs. Let people listen to an album a time or two, then let them pick out the music they want to keep, and don’t start charging ridiculus prices for these services. Start offering services to watch TV shows and movies online. Use commercials to pay for the TV shows and charge rates to watch the movies. They’re your material, you should get the money for them. Make the services useable, and let people access older content. Too many TV corporations offer their shows on their site, but with nearly unuseable interfaces, only a handful of episodes, and the shows going online days after the show´┐Ż aired. If you don’t want to bother setting up your own, work out a system with other sites.

Lastly, stop going after people. You’re no longer the big dogs, and thieving is easier with the internet around. You can’t control the internet, and the day you start trying, you’ll find a bigger fight then you’ll want to handle. Yes, you’re making less money then you were before, but I’ve heard nothing of losing so much money that suddenly you’re in trouble, except for your bloated numbers. I’m not saying you’re not entitled to your earnings, I just think its about time you learn you don’t need a golden toilet. You might think you’re protecting your rights to your property (although I’m positive that’s not the reasoning), but all you’re doing is making more enemies and pushing moderates away. Take advantage of your power, and capitulate to the people a bit. You’ll end up being their heroes.

Cracked Software, the 2008 Speakeasy?

Friday, September 26th, 2008

If only software pirates were really pirates. Think about it. How cool would it be if we could pull out cyberswords, swing on a digital rope to a passing software merchant software ship, loot the hold filled with previous DVD gems and golden movies? Then escape with the winds of T1 at your back and share a digiale back at the coding tavern.

Software pirates are thieves. I won’t deny it. Companies produce software to make profit, and software pirates are stealing profit. I’m not trying to justify stealing. I do mock the fact that they’re called pirates; I think its silly. But in a way, its also sort of accurate. The twentieth century had its shares of people standing up for change. The 1920′s had the Speakeasies. The 1960′s had Hippies. The 1990′s and beyond have Webosos.

The Internet is part of new generation of people, Millennials as we have been dubbed. I’ve heard of kids who are still in single digit years who apparently know more about computers then I do. When I say Webosos, I’m not talking about Millennials, surrounded by technology, electronics, robotics, and a invention market where stuff is outdated as soon as you take it home from the store. I’m talking about bloggers, web developers, and wikipediaites. People who believe that information is not for a privileged few, and that information should not be controlled. Not everyone wants everything available, but more often then not, Webosos believe in a new level of freedom. Critics have referred to the Internet as Pandora’s Box, opened releasing who knows what into the world. Webosos think of it as the Apple of Knowledge, and that everyone should be allowed a bite.

Recent discussions with my dad and other people from older generations have shown me the difference in values. My dad sees information to be coveted and valued. I see information as no one’s property. I’m not saying there’s no room for profit and industry when it comes to information, but information is something everyone has the right to.

The recent rise in infamy of software piracy comes from the unforgettable release of Spore. One of the most anticipated games of the year, with players waiting for over a year. It was supposed to be revolutionary, in game play and genre. It was also given the most hated of piracy prevention methods in a long time: an antiquated DRM (Digital Rights Management). The original Spore DRM was something out of a horror book, requiring activation every ten days through the Internet. The original outrage forced Electronic Arts to scale back, and instead created a DRM that is essentially a rental system: a total of 3 activations. Once three activations has expired, an owner must call up EA Technical Support (renown for terrible service), and convince them that they are in fact a legitimate owner and deserve another activation. This all supplements the fact that DRMs are well known for causing problems on computers. DRMs install without permission, track information on computers on which they are installed, and are extremely difficult to eliminate. Someone remind me, how do we define spyware?

To me, the most amusing part of all this is the Spore DRM was supposed to be unbeatable, uncrackable, and the best deterrent for all software pirates. Yet Spore was released online, cracked, days before it was even available to paying customers. It also quickly became one of the most downloaded games online, and received over 2,500 one star reviews on Amazon. The unbeatable Spore DRM was decimated. And all because of the mentality of the new generation.

There are software pirates and hackers (not synonymous terms) who do it because they don’t want to pay for anything and feel they are entitled to more. But I’d wager most of them do it for the challenge. Every new security measure on software is deemed to be unbeatable. And software pirates want to prove them wrong. They showcase their talents by proving they can do what others claim can’t be done. Then EA boasted about the best DRM yet, simultaneously creating the worst piracy prevention methods yet, and basically asked top crackers and hackers to find a way to beat it. The combination of something just short of spyware, plus the metaphorical waving of a chunk of meat in the face of the lion led to EAs (not so great) Spore to becoming one of the most popular cracked games of all time.

And so I ask honestly, why do people look down on software pirates and hackers? They’re considered no better then Speakeasy bartenders in the 20′s and Hippies in the 60′s. They’re the corruption of society, and the downfall of mankind. Yet they’re also the first steps in a new generation, a new mindset of humanity. The idea that everyone is equal and that information is not currency to be traded, but is as water, for all to have. They’re not out for fame or for credit; they’re out for equality. Webosos, those of us who don’t have quite the skill, or the gaul, are out there as infantry support; to step up when a corporation has the nerve to consider everyone a thief, because they think it will stop the real thieves. But the real thieves always have a way out, and sometimes its the people at the bottom of the moral ladder that lead to cultural revolutions that reshape how we all see the world.