SEVEN

Are you a Media Pirate?

The Cloud.  If you’re not using it then you’re living in the dark ages as far as IT is concerned.  That large, fuzzy around the edges place that you can’t actually see or touch but you know it’s there, storing the world’s secrets and serving them up on demand to anyone who can guess a username and password.

As a tool for business it’s invaluable.  Moving all the files you keep on your PC, laptop or server onto a remote all powerful hard drive out there somewhere in, well, a cloud.  There are many cloud service offerings, most of which cater to businesses, some to consumers who all want convenient ways of storing large data files, whether they be last year’s holiday snaps, business archives, music, movies…Hmmm… Music and movies…?

Megaupload.com has been in the news this week following it’s closure for piracy and copyright infringement. It was just one of may sites that allow users to upload movies and share them with other users.  Clear cut enough you may think.  I know I did, but where do you draw the line? Lets say, for example, I buy the BluRay disk of Avatar and decide to store a digital copy on The Cloud for my own viewing pleasure at home.  Then a friend of mine who hasn’t watched Avatar mentions that he would love to watch it. So being the kind hearted neighbour that I am, I give him access to my “Cloud” library so that he can watch the film.

This is no different to lending this friend the disk so no problem.  Technically I have just broken the law but it’s unlikely anyone is going to clamp the cuffs on me.  My friend then buys a film that I would like to watch so he uploads it to my Cloud library and I watch it.  No harm done really.  Bring another party into this example and you can see how file sharing becomes a grey area. The authorities in the States point out that the owner of Megaupload was supposedly generating $175 million in advertising revenue and owned more cars than I own DVD’s (quite a lot!), it’s fair to say this operation is more than a few family members sharing a disk.

So, if you store content on the Cloud it might be worth checking what is stored there and who has access to it.  Megaupload.com is an example of, in my opinion, blatant flouting of the spirit of the law if not the actual law (we’ll see) but other services such as DropBox, Boxnet or Yousendit could well be under scrutiny. These service providers are targeted far more at small close knit groups or inter-company file sharing,  Megaupload is the first to have action brought against it. More I’m sure will follow.

So what is the answer?  Surely rather than using a large stick with FBI stamped on it, the best way to tackle the problem would be to make watching a poor quality compressed copy of a movie for free simply not worth the risk. If for a small fee you could watch an uncompressed version legally wouldn’t most people do so?  Walt Disney are already moving in the right direction. Netflix, Apple and  Amazon are all trying to become a hub for the movie viewing public to watch movies at a reduced rate to that which Hollywood wants to charge while allowing the user to maintain the moral high ground.

These are the companies that hold the key to end piracy.  The pirate techies will still carry on doing what they do but the mass market is where the money is to be made and most users want to do the right thing as long as the price is right. iTunes is a perfect example, allowing purchasers to buy individual tracks rather than an entire album revolutionised online music purchasing. Perhaps in time with the right thought-through strategies, the flood of illegal downloading could be at least reduced to a trickle.

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