ON Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Wired News ran a two-part series on Pirate Bay in Sweden, the copyright pirates who have become a kind of cultural cause celebre in their native land and beyond. Part One describes the group's contempt for MPAA, RIAA et al. as well as its evasion tactics — what the writer, Quinn Norton, calls a “game of international copyright Whack-A-Mole” — and its once-hidden money-making operation.
In Part 2, Norton describes the newly minted Piratpartiet, or Pirate Party, that's already raised enough funds to print 3 million ballots for an election next month.
I do not support piracy but neither do I support corporate entitlement, and it does truly, madly, deeply annoy me that the entertainment industry has, for more than a decade, so doggedly refused to deal with the reality of digital technology. As one of the pirates puts it (and I know this is a big 'doh' to anyone who comes to this particular site, but it bears repeating), the pirates' message “isn't so much about fighting the copyfight as explaining to the other side that they've already lost.” As one of the pirates said succinctly, “Their business model won't work with digital technology.”
Ten years ago, in John Brockman's 1996 book, The Digerati, I said the same thing, albeit more obliquely: “The media moguls are, shall we say, pissing in the wind if they think they're going to make money in this interactive medium just by pouring money into it. … This distributed environment of networking obviates huge media structures. If they don't pay attention, the technology will blow them apart.”
My Digerati moniker is “The Idealist,” so I hope I can be forgiven for underestimating the lobbying power of a gazillion-dollar industry that does not want to change with the times unless it can profit handsomely. Instead of the technology blowing them apart, they bought their way into passing the DMCA, the heinosity* of which I do not want to discuss this early in the morning. I'd actually like to have a good day.
- Yes, I made up that word.