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gaming since 1997

Cynic Gamer: Pirates at Bay

April this year, the three former admins of The Pirate Bay, a known and very popular torrent site, got sentenced by the Swedish court to one year in jail and a fine of 2.7 million euros as compensation for “facilitating breach of copyright”. The fact that the judge was up to his neck into anti-piracy organisations and could hardly be called impartial didn’t matter and the Entertainment Industry called it a big win for justice.

Earlier this week, the court in Stockholm ordered Swedish provider Black Internet to cut the access to The Pirate Bay. If the provider wouldn’t comply, he would face a penalty of 500.000 Swedish Krona, which comes down to about 50.000 euros. The result: The Pirate Bay shut down for almost 24 hours and then their backup connections were up and ready. Again small victory for the Swedish court and the entertainment industry, a big “up yours” from The Pirate Bay.

And it doesn’t stop there. A bailiff was sent out to see what money the industry can get off the convicted admins as they’ve decided not to pay their fine. He came back saying they’ve got no money and aren’t even owner of The Pirate Bay. What is happening is that the entertainment industry is making themselves look like Goliath trying to crush David. And we all know how that turned out.

Meanwhile, support for The Pirate Bay is growing. At the European elections, the Swedish people even sent a representative of the Pirate Party to the European parliament. Not that we think he’ll be doing much over there, knowing current-day politicians he’ll be happy to see someone is present in parliament to actually listen to what he’s got to say.

So what the hell is going on here?

It sounds a lot like May ’68 all over again, but then in a more peaceful manner. The students who stood up against the right-winged government back then have now grown into industrialists who care about little else than infinite growth and profit (the basis of our economic system) while the internet generation is rebelling and wants to get rid of old-fashioned ideas of copyrights and patents that no longer seem to protect the rights of the individual but rather the profits of large corporations.

The industry is pouring millions and millions of dollars into copy protection schemes, have region locking systems, do major investigations and court cases to get a couple of people convicted so they can “set an example”, and for what?

Despite all efforts from the industry, the general public doesn’t see “illegal” software, copied games or downloaded CD’s as a “crime”. The pricing policy, the region locking, the different release dates of products depending on country, the copy protection schemes, … they all lead to one thing: the customer is getting frustrated with the absence of a reward for buying something legally and being punished when he DOES buy something in a shop. Music CD’s don’t work on certain CD-players, one has to go through multiple anti-piracy ads before finally getting to the menu of that new DVD you just bought, your games stop working after a time for no good reason because f.i. SecuROM decides your original DVD is suddenly not original anymore, and so on. You know what? When I buy a movie on DVD or Blu-ray, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR HOW BAD PIRACY IS!

The average citizen is getting frustrated by these protection systems, doesn’t understand what all the fuzz is about, and certainly doesn’t mind having an illegal version of MS Office on his home PC cause despite the fact it’s the cheapest version to offer Outlook which he’s used to from work (Outlook isn’t sold separately over here), it’s still overpriced at €499.

Similarly, when movies get released in the US they need up to a year to get to Europe. Why is that? Does it take that long in order to get some subtitles created? Doesn’t seem to take hackers that long!

Or what about CD’s ro DVD’s that never even get released in another continent because the bosses of these worldwide corporations don’t think the “target audience” is big enough to justify a release abroad. The average Joe Schmuck knows the internet is worldwide and if he can’t buy the product he wants, he’s got no problem with downloading it. And why would he? If a publisher decides to release half a season of a TV series on DVD and then let’s everyone standing in the cold, what’s a man to do? Just hope that one day in the distant future someone will decide to release the rest of the series?

The industry is roaring itself like a devil in a bottle of holy water at the moment in order to stop sites like The Pirate Bay, and is trying to get incompetent national governments to jump on the bandwagon and support them by changing legislation in favor of the industry as they see fit.

The latest move is to get governments to target ISPs and individuals. Monitoring what you’re doing on the internet suddenly isn’t a problem anymore as it “protects” the “rights” of “creative minds”. And what about the right to privacy? I remember that being a basic human right over here in Europe but it seems that when money is involved, politicians don’t seem to care.

If the industry gets their will, you can expect entire households getting cut off because the 15 year old son was found illegally downloading some game on the internet. Or because dad had downloaded a copied porn movie or mom some CD she couldn’t find in the local music shop. If governments would allow such practices, where would it stop? This would be a fundamental violation of our right to privacy as whatever you would do on the internet, it would be tracked by “Big Brother”, at first in service of the entertainment industry and probably later on in service of anyone with any interest in doing so.

The industry would do good to investigate carefully why people massively copy and download software instead of paying for it as its current battle is only leading straight towards the Big Brother scenario I outlined above. And when this will ultimately backfire in the faces of the people who are currently promoting to abandon the right to privacy in exchange for money, what are they going to say then? “Wir haben es nicht gewusst”? Yea, heard that before!


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