Sunday, October 18, 2009

Media Piracy or Fair Use?

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (left) is trying to protect its movies and other content from being illegally copied and sold on the streets, sometimes even before the movies make it to theaters. The MPAA is the trade association of the big Hollywood film companies whose mission it is to look out for the interests of the film studios.

Some media piracy is being done for financial gain (often in foreign countries) but other "piracy" is more like people sharing videos with friends. Like the failed attempt to stop the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol during Prohibition from 1919 to 1933, some feel media regulators need to provide more legal alternatives for people to share media because it can't be stopped.

The industries had some success by shutting down The Pirate Bay (TPB) (right) but many of the people who used to use the service have not stopped downloading movies from the Web. According to the Los Angeles Times, The Pirate Bay is "one of the world's largest facilitators of illegal downloading", and "the most visible member of a burgeoning international anti-copyright or pro-piracy-movement". The Pirate Bay has over 3,800,000 registered users.

In 2006, The Pirate Bay's website servers in Stockholm were raided by Swedish police, causing it to go offline for three days.
In 2009, four administrators of TPB were found guilty of copyright infringement and sentenced to one year in prison and payment of a fine of 30 million SEK (app. $3,620,000 USD). Despite the trial the website remained relatively unaffected.

Media piracy has been around in some form or another for a long time but the Internet and the common practice of file-sharing has changed the rules somewhat. Rather than embracing the new technology or offering fair alternatives to obtaining digital copies of movies, television shows, music, games, etc. the media industries persist in trying to stop the practice of file sharing. The MPAA and the movie studios it serves may have to take advantage of the very system and practice it is currently trying to stop.

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