Sharing is (not) Caring


Written by Jonasz Tolopilo
31 Monday 31st May 2010

Piracy has been and will always be a juicy issue. With 95% of all music downloaded from the internet done so illegaly, practically everyone has pirated material from one source or another on their iPod. Pirate Bay, the Swedish website hosting almost 3 milion torrents, has become something of a symbol of socio-political revolution through their ongoing battle with major music labels, film studios and other copyright holders.

Pirate Bay always have a great laugh at the lawsuits and fines imposed by copyright owners such as Microsoft, Apple or Dreamworks (see examples of their sardonic responses here), and although regularly forced to shut down their servers (most recently on 17 May), they are usually only disabled for a couple of days before relocating and everything getting back to normal.
This torrent-based revolution is practically unstoppable. Disable one source – another ten will appear briefly. At this point people do and will download music, films and software for free. Why? Because we don't feel that this is some kind of crime. Even when the outdated law says so. This is illustrated by Sharing is caring, a pro-piracy (but can you call this thing piracy at all?) advert. The short clip shows a human-shaped creature who strolls around the city with a cookie and every time it meets a stranger, it gives him half of it. Those halves instantly become a cookie themselves. Yep, that's basically how torrents work. However, I must admit that I truly don't care about other people using torrents. As far as I get what I want, I stop 'caring'. I might be a self-centered person, but I don't think that my view alters noticeably from the rest of the torrent community.
As strange as it may sound, artists (mainly musicians) can win a lot thanks to unlimited music sharing. The more popular they get, the more people want to see them live, buy their merchandise etc. That's especially true in terms of tiny, unsigned bands who dream about playing in Glastonbury. In terms of Rolling Stones or U2, well, they're already millionaires, aren't they?


This phenomenon of emancipation of information from copyright may have various repercussions. Many think that there should be software anarchy, where all the programs would be open source so that they could be distributed, and modified by users without any limits. There is even a Free Software Foundation that promotes this view. But I cannot find a place there for non-geeky internet users who only use it to see pictures of Lady Gaga getting drunk in one of the posh clubs.
In terms of music, some artists have noticed that their music will be shared without their permission whether they like it or not and are exploring other options. Radiohead, for example, released their latest album not through the iTunes store but their own website where you could pay however much you wanted for their album. Ed from Radiohead states that he's aware that if you're too preachy and expect that people will pay for your music even when they can download it for free, your audience will go underground and it'll be extremely hard to track those people. That's why he and his bandmates choose rather untypical methods to fight piracy.
However, we cannot just make piracy legal – fine, musicians can make their living by performing and they don't need huge amount of money anymore to produce their albums anymore – nowadays you can practically produce a high-quality material in home environment. What about film distributors that still need millions for stunts, special effects, cast etc.? Pirate Party may be the answer. It takes copyright to the next level: Pirate Party wants to maintain the copyright, but postulates shortening the period of protecting someone's work. Therefore, people would be able to download stuff for free after a certain period of time, when copyright owner had made a reasonable profit. Sounds fine to me – there're plenty of old films that I'd want to see without being scared that FBI knocks at my door.
We're the definitely witnesses of a copyright revolution. A revolution during which the word 'stealing' may be replaced with the euphemistic 'sharing'. Indeed, I would love to be called a sharer insted of a robber. 


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