"Contrary to popular belief, illegal filesharing sites are not shoestring operations run by penniless kids. They require vast servers to host stolen content. They also require huge bandwidth to handle the illegal downloads. Even start-ups – let’s call them small town dealers – need computer equipment, software and broadband services that cost considerable amounts of money. To pay for their operations, traffickers use two revenue models: paid-for premium subscriptions that enable faster downloading; and display advertising – often supplied through Google Ads – which appears as content downloads.On the assumption that this isn't a sufficiently mouth-watering proposition to encourage authors to say, "if you can't beat'em, join'em", she then lists her suggestions for tackling the phenomenon:
The revenue raised is eye-watering. When the executives behind file-sharing site Megaupload were indicted for copyright violations, racketeering and money-laundering, the indictment left many authors (average income £7,000 and falling) slack-jawed at the money involved. The FBI accused the seven executives, including CEO Kim Dotcom (yes, seriously, that is his name) of amassing $175m since the site launched in 2005. In 2010 Dotcom took home $42m; another executive earned $9m. Among seized assets were a Lamborghini, a Maserati and 15 Mercedes cars with personalised number plates including the legends "STONED", "GOOD", "BAD", "EVIL" and "GUILTY". Oh, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom (list price £250,000 to £300,000) bearing the number plate "GOD"".
- Contact: Companies whose advertising or services benefit trafficking sites. When you find ads for companies on filesharing sites contact those companies through the "investor relations" pages on their website and point to the specific places in which their advertising revenue is being used to support illegal sites. Ads are usually supplied by services such as Google; again use the investor relations page to contact the provider and point out that its service is helping fund a trafficker [it would be good to hear of any empirical evidence that this has any effect. Where advertisers are not public companies with a corporate conscience -- for example small retailers and etailers who are selling big brand products that may be grey goods or infringements in any event -- this may either be impossible or unlikely to bear any fruit].
- Note: Every time you search for a piece of music, book or film and the first result page that appears is illegal downloads, inform the copyright holder and the search engine. One of the issues faced by copyright holders is the ease with which illegal sites get their content to the top of search results, making it easier to entice punters into stealing [Again, it would be good to know how effective this is. Other than depressing copyright owners, who are generally aware when this is the case if they're commercial enterprises or unable to do much about it if they're not, it's not clear what effect this has].
- Lobby: The Open Rights Movement has massive lobbying power. They put their case to MPs and MEPs through lobbyists based in London and Brussels. Counter their arguments and contact your MP, MEP and relevant ministers to show how copyright infringement is undermining creativity, not feeding it [the Open Rights Group does call for an evidence-based overhaul of copyright law, as its website indicates, which rather leaves open the question as to what its final policy might be on the subject. Given that MPs and MEPs generally know little and care less about IP, which is never a vote-winner, it might be more effective for authors and copyright owners to join the Open Rights Movement and debate the issues with it from the inside].
- Join: Organisations like ALCS, the Publishers Association and the Society of Authors can keep you updated on what is needed, such as changes to search engine protocols to stop traffickers ranking top in searches [this isn't going to change the world, not at least initially, but a better-informed author or copyright owner can be expected to make better decisions].
- Publicise: No company wants bad publicity. Use shareholders' meetings, blogs and articles to point out how specific businesses are profiting from the Big Rip Off of Writers [blogs, tweets, Facebook and the social media in general have had some notable successes in influencing corporate behaviour, and sometimes even policy. The big problem here is the risk of an action for defamation if authors and copyright owners get the facts wrong].
Danuta closes with the following sentiment:
- Argue: A recent study of BitTorrent traffic showed that 35.8% was pornographic. Ask these businesses if they know they are making money from sites that include the exchange of child pornography. Ask filesharing friends about the company they keep" [Again, brand owners who are sensitive about their image may not be able to influence the marketing and sale of products once they have been placed on the open market -- but it can do no harm to draw this to their attention].
"This is not an easy fight, but writers and other artists should not assume they cannot fight back. We can. We know we can, because we have been in a world where ripping off writers was endemic before. It was the active and vocal campaigns of writers in the 19th Century that established copyright in the first place. It’s time we brought our fighting skills up to date".This is true, but back in the 19th century authors like Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo had an easier time of it than did the authors of today. It was a time when much if not most of the debate over the existence and extent of copyright focused on moral issues, not purely economic ones -- and the public sense of what was right and wrong, fair and unfair, was probably a good deal more pronounced in those days than it is now.