In his book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ Clay Shirky talks about “what happens when people are given the tools to do things together, without needing traditional organizational structures”. He makes some very valid points in his writing, our filters for dealing with the flow of information into our lives were built for a different age and now we need to reconsider what filters we need for this new, digitally connected, always on society.
Digital content distribution has caught us off-guard as well. What’s not to like about getting your content to people fast and at low cost? And on the other side of the equation, what’s not to love about being able to get a song delivered to your device of choice right now?
Well, there’s quite a lot not to like it now seems and most of it is that digital content distribution does not have all the checks and balances in place to ensure those wanting to make a living from it get the money that is rightfully theirs.
But the issue transcends the kid in their bedroom downloading a game, video, song, software (fill in the blanks) for ‘free’, it’s a lot bigger than them and I’m not talking about some big bad internet crime lord running a torrent empire. I’m talking about the normalizing of criminal activity.
In the last week I’ve seen two high profile sites run what are becoming quite regular articles, here are the examples.The first site, a software sales site was offering some software for sale with this opening line:
“Want to give your iTunes library a boost, but don’t have spare change to drop on thousands of songs? Leemsoft mp3 Downloader for Mac is an all-in-one mp3 audio downloader that helps Mac music lovers easily search for and download songs by pulling from most popular online music sharing sites, like YouTube.”So buy this software from them and then you won’t have to ‘drop your spare change on thousands of songs.’
There’s so much wrong with that statement regarding the value attributed to our creative efforts I can’t even begin in this article to cover it. However what this advert is doing is suggesting that if you don’t have the music then you can use this software to steal it instead.
The second site, a well respected technology news site ran this story:
“Popcorn Time is a fantastic — albeit questionably legal — Mac app that allows you to treat BitTorrent like Netflix, searching for movies and TV shows on sites like The Pirate Bay that you want to watch and then streaming them directly to your computer. It’s a great app, but it has at least one glaring problem: You can’t stream a movie over Popcorn Time directly to your Apple TV using AirPlay. Luckily, thanks to a new Mac app, you can.”
These are just two examples of a world that is normalizing digital content theft.
Now think what would happen if the likes of the New York Times or Amazon ran stories or sold products on how to break into a house without getting caught, or steal from cash points. Amazon don’t as far as I can tell from my searches on their site.
We can bang on about how we should lock up the kids that do it, but until the ‘respected’ voices stop giving tacit approval to the practice then we’re fighting a losing battle.
It’s one thing people pleading ignorance to the fact that stealing digital content is wrong, but when more and more ‘respected’ and influential web sites take the fatalistic approach of normalizing digital content theft then we have a long road to walk.
In the 1970s when I was a kid, dropping litter and sexual discrimintion were both pretty much socially accceptable - several decades later, partly due to legislation, but also due to the changing public attitudes, thankfully both are fast becoming a thing of the past.
We’re all fooling ourselves if we think that digital content theft is perpetrated by computer savvy, bedroom teens. It’s a crime that a forty-something city worker, a Dad, parent, teacher, Office Manager is doing. In fact every kind of person in society is as likely to take part in it and the more that highly influential websites say it’s OK then the harder it is to stop.
With digital content theft law is one part of the battle, but we have a cultural one to fight too.