The High Court has ruled that file-sharing site The Pirate Bay must be blocked by UK internet service providers.

For the unaware, The Pirate Bay is perhaps the most popular file-sharing site on the web and allows people to access a huge range of content including movies, games and TV shows.

Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must all prevent their users from accessing the site. BT have requested “a few more weeks” to consider their position on blocking the site.

A statement from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said: “Sites like The Pirate Bay destroy jobs in the UK and undermine investment in new British artists,” while BPI’s chief executive Geoff Taylor said: “Its operators line their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them. This is wrong – musicians, sound engineers and video editors deserve to be paid for their work just like everyone else.”

While this ruling surrounds music, it is going to downloads of every shape and size including TV and, yep, movies.

Which is nonsense. The arguments against online filesharing are as flawed as those that surrounded home recording in the 80s and branded kids that recorded eachothers’ cassette tapes as pirates. Not that I’m condoning piracy, quite the opposite. I just feel we should resist attempts to control the internet, as it’s a pernicious process. With SOPA and now CISPA in the States, we are following suit in the UK and are on a slippery slope towards internet censorship.

Home taping is killing music

Ultimately, these measures are pointless as they can be got around using proxy servers or simply going to other filesharing sites.

Furthermore, entertainment producers and providers just aren’t keeping up with their audiences, and leave people with little choice but to find other ways of accessing content when legitimate means don’t cut it. Putting aside the argument that a new DVD shouldn’t cost £15 (though that is a valid complaint), many people simply cannot get hold of the films and TV shows that are being shoved down their throats.

Have you seen The Cabin In The Woods yet? Why not? See it. See it now. Watch it now. Why haven’t you watched it? All your friends have watched it. You’re a loser. Your parents hate you. Watch it now… And so on and so on until the impressionable teenager who the adverts are aimed at and who doesn’t have a multiplex nearby gives in and Googles “free download Cabin In The Woods.”

But that doesn’t explain why adults download illegally. However, this does, and is based on a real situation experienced by a friend in who lives in New York.

 

He has just watched the entire first season of Game of Thrones and is hooked. He loved it and season two has just started on HBO. The only problem is, he can’t watch it legally until 2013. Why? Well, it’s impossible to subscribe to HBO unless you have cable or satellite TV which would mean spending upwards of $100 per month for something he doesn’t want, and he can’t simply stream it or download it from their site.

So what’s left? iTunes? Nope, because they won’t have the show until March 2013 at the earliest. So if he wants to see the show at the same time as everyone else, before spoilers have ruined it, then the only option left is to use illegal means. And like so many bad things, there are multiple upsides:

  • He can get it immediately.
  • The quality will be better than those of legal downloads.
  • The download speeds will outstrip those offered by “legitimate” services.

To my friend, the fact that it’s free comes way down the list.

All that needs to happen to stop people using sites like Pirate Bay is for TV and movie studios to start giving us more options and meeting the standards we expect.

Make it easier to get content where we want it, when we want it, and at a fair price, and “pirating” will all but vanish. The slightest change will be better than what we have today; where TV companies, record labels and movie studios make it harder and harder to get hold of the content, while pushing up prices and increasing the intensity of their marketing.

It’s a similar situation to the one I find myself in when I want to watch WWE pay-per-views (PPVs). I don’t have Sky and I’m not prepared to buy an expensive Sky package that includes the sports channels, especially as I would then need to pay another fee in order to view these individual PPVs. I would be paying for installation and subscription to hundreds of channels I don’t want in order to watch two hours of something I want to see. Nor can I stream or download via official channels, simply because of my location. The only way I can watch these PPVs is via alternative means.

The things being downloaded illegally are great shows, movies and songs, and people would love to pay to watch them. Those in charge will learn, eventually, but not before they alienate millions of people and lose a lot of money, and all because they are stuck in a 20th century mindset and still chasing the kinds of profits they grew fat on in the 80s and early-90s.

Music, film and TV producers claim they are moving with the times (and they do when it suits them) but the overwhelming sense is of greedy executives in expensive suits pushing an analogue business model in a digital era.