Despite the best efforts of anti-piracy lobbyists the world over, peer to peer file sharing has remained a legal gray area for years, and the internet has become a veritable wet dream for shoplifters and music fans alike. But now, because of Harry Potter and The Simpsons, it's beginning to look as though the party might be over, and the next time you shift and click your way to the new Rihanna single you can be sure that Big Brother will be gleefully watching your every move.
Here are the facts. On July 26th, one day before the Simpsons movie premiered in theatres across the United States, a pirated copy of the film began circulating on various file sharing web sites. Within 72 hours of the upload, American authorities were able to track the original file to a computer in Australia where, with the help of the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft (AFACT), a 21 year old male was arrested and now faces up to 5 years in jail. All of a sudden the idea of the cops crashing through some 15 year old kid's window at night and arresting him for downloading music doesn't seem so absurd does it? The real story here though, is that within that 72 hour window, the file was downloaded no less than 113,000 times. That's over $1,525,500.00 in lost ticket revenues in just three days, so you can imagine what's at stake for the studios here.
Now then, the photographed Harry Potter novel that leaked a couple of days before its release is a bit of a different story as the French kid that did it never ended up going down for his crimes. But what the publishing company lost in revenues they gained in public awareness of the issue. The Potter case (or Potter-gate, as I've dubbed it) was the first in years to make every six o'clock news show in North America, and so the industry gained a spokesperson; a figure that the public at large could rally for. Because let's face it, the majority of the people who are actually responsible for making laws in this country probably think musicians are just a bunch of under aged and over-paid kids who could do with a financial hit. I think the music industry gets little sympathy from the government, regardless of their financial power.
But what's the point in all this, I hear you all asking? What is the law, and how far can I bend it before it breaks? Well, while Nexopia would certainly never officially endorse downloading pirated material, we can certainly keep you abreast of the legalities involved right?
There's always been a misconception that in Canada and the US there are no restrictions against the uploading or downloading of digital media, but in fact these activities fall under the same laws that govern the copying of CDs, DVDs, or VHS tapes. Remember that annoying FBI warning you always fast forwarded before the movie starts? Well, you should have paid more attention. Basically, it's totally legal to borrow your friend's CD and copy it for your own personal use; you're just not allowed to sell the copy. The same applies for downloading. It's perfectly legal to download through file sharing as long as it's for your eyes or ears only. But here's the rub. If you borrow your friend's CD and you find out it's stolen, there could be trouble. But you didn't know right? So your friend is the only one that goes down for it. This is what it's like for downloading and the reason that only the originator of the infamous Simpsons file got arrested. If you put it on the net you're in trouble, but if you take it off the net your fine.
This is what the industry wants changed, and they want it done now. In fact, you may not know this, but many of your favorite file sharing sites are now under the direction of law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the MPAA and are tracking all of your downloading activities in order to make a case against you. This deal with the devil was made so that these sites could stay in operation a bit longer, but the writing on the wall seems pretty loud and clear. Of course this is all a smoke screen as it seems inevitable that the entertainment industry is headed for a hard-copy free, web-based distribution system anyway. But perhaps that's for another article.
Article by: Chris Webster
Read the past related article on this issue.