Yesterday, I told you about Sex.com becoming the Pinterest of Pornography. I wrote about that to illustrate the way social networking, done correctly, operates, and acknowledged that I talk about that topic pretty often.
I also talk about Piracy quite a bit. Media Piracy, be it movies, music, books, or software, is an incredibly complicated subject, and one that has many ways to link into a conversation about business change. This week, The High Court in The United Kingdom took aim at Piracy, and in mid-2012 I’m both amazed and a little frightened that they’ve pursued the particular action they’re attempting.
The High Court ordered that UK ISPs must completely block access to The Pirate Bay. Think what you will of Piracy or The Pirate Bay, singling out a web site as so bad that access to it must be blocked for an entire populace is an extraordinarily scary step. And not one that a supposedly democratic society such and The United Kingdom should be taking.
I’m not so foolish as to make this a conversation about free speech, privacy, or any other topic so nebulous as those. But when even the government of France has been working with better ideas to combat privacy for nearly two years, I can’t help but be horrified that one of the UK’s top arbiters of law is still operating from so insular a position as to believe that they have any control over piracy. As the folks at The Pirate Bay pointed out in their response to the Court’s order, The High Court has accomplished nothing other than beginning a trip down an impossibly slippery slope.
It’s the antithesis of business change.
Piracy is an incredibly complex topic. Louis CK figured it out, but only to a point and only in a way that matters if you have the clout of a Louis CK. Some movie studios have figured out that piracy can be a pretty good business plan. Neil Young and Elvis Costello understand piracy and have embraced it. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson is a movie pirate. And of course, we have the mess brought about when MegaUpload was shut down without due process.
But sitting underneath all of these remains the reality that a lot of people don’t even know when they’ve “been pirates”.
Under those circumstances, and again without regard to the free speech and due process issues that many people will try to invoke, the idea of stuffing the piracy genie back in a small bottle is ludicrous. As an example: I know a fifteen-year-old, decidedly non-technical girl who figured out in a matter of minutes that she could watch, coincidentally, a UK-based television program she’s fond of by using a proxy server. And in bypassing the “UK-viewers only, please” position the program’s producers have attempted to set up she doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong.
Despite having been shut down in the past The Pirate Bay lives on. And UK Internet users will continue to use it regardless of toothless court orders. The issue, as always, is business change, and having the good sense and flexibility to embrace, rather than fight it.