IFPI rhetorics imply that file-sharing supports terrorism


A few days ago, IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) put out a press release titled “ten inconvenient truths“, which claims to offer new insights into the dirty world of digital piracy.

Apart from the fact that the titles is a rather weak reference to the movie about Al Gore and global warming (“An Inconvenient Truth”), it’s also rather funny to read. Sadly, facts are a little thinly spread, and no sources are given to verify the claims.

As the arguments given by IFPI here are not just one-sided (which is legit: IFPI is, after all, talking from a pro-copyright, anti-filesharing point of view), they’re also a bit on the radical/irresponsible side, here’s a quick shot at some of the main arguments. Please note that I’m not claiming to be neutral in this particular post.

Without further ado:

1. Pirate Bay, one of the flagships of the anti-copyright movement, makes thousands of euros from advertising on its site, while maintaining its anti-establishment “free music” rhetoric.

Your point being? (Lobbying for non-DRM, maybe even non-copyrighted music isn’t the same as demanding the abolition of capitalsm/the market/cash, now is it?)

2., the well-known Russian website, has not been licensed by a single IFPI member, has been disowned by right holder groups worldwide and is facing criminal proceedings in Russia.

Ok, so a commercial piracy operation was busted. Good news! Congratulations. But what’s the point here? Most people would agree that this is a good thing. (Yes, maybe even the Pirate Bay would say that.)

3. Organised criminal gangs and even terrorist groups use the sale of counterfeit CDs to raise revenue and launder money.

Wow, ok, hold it right there. Now this is getting irresponsible in the extreme. While it’s quite possible that criminal organizations also make money through “the sale of counterfeit CDs”, that has nothing to do with file-sharing as IFPI implies. Quite the contrary: As most file-sharing activities don’t include any kind of financial transaction, file-sharing will neither help those criminal organizations to make money, nor to laundry it. In fact, it’s more likely that this would try out the money channels created by sale of counterfeit CDs: After all, who’d buy a counterfeit CD after downloading the music?

Implying that file-sharing supports terrorism is both rhetorically and morally inacceptable. It also gives me the impression that the IFPI bends the truth where deemed necessary to support their arguments.

4. Illegal file-sharers don’t care whether the copyright infringing work they distribute is from a major or independent label.

That may be so, or not. I can’t tell. And I’d guess, neither can you.

5. Reduced revenues for record companies mean less money available to take a risk on “underground” artists and more inclination to invest in “bankers” like American Idol stars.

Ah, right. Good point: Stop innovating, stick to whatever we’ve had before. Well, that’s a bit like claiming that nobody would invest in regenerative energies ’cause “hey, we have coal & oil, so why change anything? It’s cheaper, too!” Right.

6. ISPs often advertise music as a benefit of signing up to their service, but facilitate the illegal swapping on copyright infringing music on a grand scale.

Apart from the implications given the rather enthusiastic use of shaky legal terminology: Agreed. ISPs advertise file-sharing as a benefit, and deliver. Errr….

7. The anti-copyright movement does not create jobs, exports, tax revenues and economic growth – it largely consists of people pontificating on a commercial world about which they know little.

That one’s part correct, but hilariously arrogant. Correct: The anti-copyright movement does not create jobs. (Well, that’s not quite correct, technically. Think lawyers, EFF etc.. But it doesn’t create exports or tax, probably.) That’s not the aim of a movement against a legal term, though. However, the free culture & Creative Commons “movement” creates art, creative works, promotion for artists and thereby enhanced sales. With sales come jobs, exports, taxes etc.

But what’s that part about “people pontificating…”? Come on, IFPI, you’re not really claiming that it’s just a bunch of tree-huggers, anarchists and communists who are against the copyright you’re promoting, or who download music? You don’t even believe that yourself, do you?

8. Piracy is not caused by poverty. Professor Zhang of Nanjing University found the Chinese citizens who bought pirate products were mainly middle or higher income earners.

Of course not. But CDs aren’t purchased by poor people, either. How much is a commercial CD in Beijing? How much in rural China? Oh, wait, you won’t tell us that the major part of CDs isn’t even commercially available there, will you?

9. Most people know it is wrong to file-share copyright infringing material but won’t stop till the law makes them, according to a recent study by the Australian anti-piracy group MIPI.

Err, technically, the law already made “them” stop the file-sharing of “copyright infringing material”, didn’t it? The commercial distribution of said material, too. Just what is “copyright infringing material” will have to be negotiated over and over a few times.

To give an infamous example: How come that the IFPI’s German partner GEMA requires artists to join them exclusively? According to the GEMA’s rules, artists have to choose between Creative Commons and GEMA membership: If you’re a member, you can’t release even a single song under Creative Commons license.

So what happens in case the Beastie Boys release a song under a Creative Commons license? Well, in the U.S., that’s perfectly fine. But since the Beastie Boys are pretty much by default a GEMA member, GEMA claims that the songs can’t be Creative Commons licensed.

Who said anything about IFPI acting in the artists’ interests?

10. P2P networks are not hotbeds for discovering new music. It is popular music that is illegally file-shared most frequently.

Maybe true, or not. The implication that file-sharing hurts music sales, however, is most likely untrue. A 2004 study by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina found that:

Even high levels of file-swapping seemed to translate into an effect on album sales that was “statistically indistinguishable from zero,” they wrote.

“We find that file sharing has only had a limited effect on record sales,” the study’s authors wrote. “While downloads occur on a vast scale, most users are likely individuals who would not have bought the album even in the absence of file sharing.”

The fact that “popular” music is file-shared “most frequently” is rather self-evident, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t it be shared “most frequently”? Still, this doesn’t say that people don’t hear the music for the first time. Nor does it say anything about the relation between “popular” and less-widely known music: The theory of the Long Tail suggests that (while a very small number of hits are shared very, very often) in absolute figures, the vastly major part of file-sharing activities are those involving non-hits, or less-widely known songs.

Dear IFPI: Why don’t you go back to your desk, re-think the whole thing, and come back with something a bit more substantial? It’ll help us all to get the facts right first, and it’ll spare you the public self-humiliation.


Link, via

Great 09 F9 … art


I just love how quickly and creatively the issue around “09 F9 …” has spawned a bunch of cool art. As you can imagine, I’m a huge fan of art, especially of mash-ups and politically inspired art. So to me, it’s just great to watch the creativity unfold here.

Let’s see:

There’s the flickr group.

We’ve got the hamster poem (Source of this version unknown, but the original hamster can be traced back to Seattle Roll): Hamster 09 Poem (via Xeni. Check out the comments there, too!)

Then there’s the even more awesome sloth. (Sorry, source unknown, too. If you know, share with me in the comment, please.) Sloth, crawling (via BoingBoing and seanbonner)

And there’s more popping up by the minute. Also, I noticed this odd number popping up in a few friends’ email signatures, and even saw a banner ad asking people to print it on apparel. Odd things are happening in the wide, wide internets.

Last, I saw this awesome little piece of poetry titled “Zero and her Origin

Zero, the number said to be discovered Nine times by ancient magicians, was Found again by a mysterious order of Nine modern alchemists, who built One machine after another, until finally One exploded with fascinating results.

Update: EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann has posted a great post explaining the legal issues arising from even openly discussing those digits. I’m not even sure the DMCA would be applicable to this weblog as it’s written and hosted outside the U.S., but as I deeply, deeply mistrust the AACS-LA (the entity that licenses AACS to makers of HD-DVD players) and their lawyers, I’d rather not quote the whole series of digits. What a crappy law, protecting a technology which is itself a crappy idea. Talk about chilling effects!

iTunes will sell the complete EMI catalog DRM-free


DRM is killing musicApple and EMI announced that the whole EMI catalog will be sold through the iTunes music store DRM-free:

Higher-quality music files, which will play on any computer and any digital-audio player, will not replace the copy-protected EMI music currently sold through iTunes. Rather, they will complement the standard 99-cent iTunes downloads and will be sold at a premium: $1.29 per song. Consumers who have already purchased EMI tracks containing Apple’s FairPlay copy protection will be able to upgrade them to the premium version for 30 cents, EMI said. Full albums in DRM-free form can be bought at the same price as standard iTunes albums. “We are committed to embracing change, and to developing products and services that consumers really want to buy,” said Eric Nicoli, chief executive of EMI. Nicoli cited internal EMI tests in which higher-quality, DRM-free songs outsold its lower-quality, copy-protected counterparts 10-to-1.

This is awesome news! Now you can get better-quality music, and without the copy protection you can actually use it on any device you’ve got. (It’s 30% extra per song, but that’s a price I’m more than willing to pay for actually owning the music instead of just being granted the temporary right to listen to it, under certain circumstances, if Apple happens to be in the right mood. So to speak.) Also, independent labels should profit extra from this price structure, as their songs usually were sold for less than the regular 99 cent.

Apple’s Steve Jobs had talked about selling no-DRM music, but didn’t seem to be acting on his workds, so this is really, really great news.

Link to Apple press release

P2P is media piracy’s biggest enemy


BoingBoing quotes a great story about how P2P filesharing puts media pirates out of business:

A media pirate — someone who sells pirated DVDs and CDs for a living — complains that P2P has put him out of business. People might be willing to buy legit music online even though P2P exists (…), but they won’t buy from pirates in the face of P2P. The music industry likes to lump P2P and hard-goods piracy together, but they’re not the same thing at all — in fact, they’re dire enemies. Piracy’s biggest competitor is P2P.

Here’s from the original article:

According to Tony, the first 2 hours of every Saturday and Sunday morning at the local flea market always proved the most exciting. “We’d take 60 cases of CDRs down in the van and as soon as we got there a crowd would swarm around us. We had no competition and it was obvious the punters had no other suppliers. Inside 30 minutes, 90% of the stock would be gone with some customers taking 2 or 3 cases each, presumably to sell on. After 3 hours we were cleared out and on our way home, always with huge amounts of money.”… Tony is very clear about why his rags to riches story has gone back to rags again. “File-sharing, P2P – call it what you like. When you asked a customer why he wasn’t buying anything, 9 times out of 10 it was ‘BitTorrent this, LimeWire that’.

Interesting perspective, and one that I don’t think I’ve ever seen covered by any major media outlet…

Link (via)

Why DRM drives piracy


Jim Baen explains the connection between DRM & piracy, and why DRM doesn’t stop, but foster piracy:

Electronic copyright infringement is something that can only become an “economic epidemic” under certain conditions. Any one of the following: 1) The product they want—electronic texts—are hard to find, and thus valuable. 2) The products they want are high-priced, so there’s a fair amount of money to be saved by stealing them. 3) The legal products come with so many added-on nuisances that the illegal version is better to begin with. Those are the three conditions that will create widespread electronic copyright infringement, especially in combination. Why? Because they’re the same three general conditions that create all large-scale smuggling enterprises. And . . . Guess what? It’s precisely those three conditions that DRM creates in the first place. So far from being an impediment to so-called “online piracy,” it’s DRM itself that keeps fueling it and driving it forward.

Agreed, particularly to No. 3: The hassles of DRM (and most consumer anti-piracy measures) are just such a pain, from iTunes, to anti-piracy messages on rented DVDs, to my all-time favorite: the DVD region codes which locked my old laptop’s DVD drive ’cause I watched a handful original, purchased, non-pirated DVDs from different countries. (Which isn’t going to happen again, needless to say.)

Link (via Pwned)

re:publica program is online


The conference program for re:publica 07 (April 11-13, 2007, Berlin, link) is online. (Sorry – German only, so far.) If you happen to be in Berlin at the time, I’m sure it’s worth dropping by. Markus and his folks sure got an interesting bunch of speakers together (including, hopefully, Larry Lessig), and it’ll be a nice way to meet the faces behind all those blogs and podcasts.

Make sure to say hi!


“Piracy is Progressive Taxation…”


“… and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution” is the title of an essay Tim O’Reilly wrote in 2002. Occasionally I re-read it, and every single time I’m baffled about how he just got it right. I guess that’s exactly what makes a great writer/thinker stand out. Once I had the great opportunity to do a Skype interview with Tim (which for reasons beyond my control sadly never was published), and remember it to be just mind-boggling. (And quite nice despite my complete failure to solve some technical issues with the French-only speaking staff at his hotel in Brussels where he was staying for OSCON.)

Even after nearly 5 years, this essay is so dense & full of good ideas that… well… that I wish more people had read it.

Just some snippets, more or less at random:

Many works linger in deserved obscurity, but so many more suffer simply from the vast differential between supply and demand. I don’t know the exact size of the entire CD catalog, but I imagine that it is similar in scope. Tens of thousands of musicians self-publish their own CDs; a happy few get a recording contract. Of those, fewer still have their records sell in appreciable numbers. The deep backlist of music publishers is lost to consumers because the music just isn’t available in stores. (…) I have watched my 19 year-old daughter and her friends sample countless bands on Napster and Kazaa and, enthusiastic for their music, go out to purchase CDs. My daughter now owns more CDs than I have collected in a lifetime of less exploratory listening. What’s more, she has introduced me to her favorite music, and I too have bought CDs as a result. And no, she isn’t downloading Britney Spears, but forgotten bands from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, as well as their musical forebears in other genres. This is music that is difficult to find — except online — but, once found, leads to a focused search for CDs, records, and other artifacts. eBay is doing a nice business with much of this material, even if the RIAA fails to see the opportunity. (…) We’ve found little or no abatement of sales of printed books that are also available for sale online. What’s more, many of those who do infringe respond to little more than a polite letter asking them to take the materials down. Those servers that ignore our requests are typically in countries where the books are not available for sale or are far too expensive for local consumers to buy. (…) While few of the people putting books on public web servers seek to profit from the activity, those who are putting up CDs for sale on eBay containing PDF or HTML copies of dozens of books are in fact practicing piracy–organized copying of content for resale. But even so, we see no need for stronger copyright laws, or strong Digital Rights Management software, because existing law allows us to prosecute the few deliberate pirates. We don’t have a substantial piracy problem in the US and Europe. The fact that its software products have been available for years on warez sites (and now on file trading networks) has not kept Microsoft from becoming one of the world’s largest and most successful companies. Estimates of “lost” revenue assume that illicit copies would have been paid for; meanwhile, there is no credit on the other side of the ledger for copies that are sold because of “upgrades” from familiarity bred by illicit copies. What we have is a problem that is analogous, at best, to shoplifting, an annoying cost of doing business. (…) If a bookstore has only one copy of your book, or a music store one copy of your CD, a shoplifted copy essentially makes it disappear from the next potential buyer’s field of possibility. Because the store’s inventory control system says the product hasn’t been sold, it may not be reordered for weeks or months, perhaps not at all. I have many times asked a bookstore why they didn’t have copies of one of my books, only to be told, after a quick look at the inventory control system: “But we do. It says we still have one copy in stock, and it hasn’t sold in months, so we see no need to reorder.” It takes some prodding to force the point that perhaps it hasn’t sold because it is no longer on the shelf. Because an online copy is never out of stock, we at least have a chance at a sale, rather than being subject to the enormous inefficiencies and arbitrary choke points in the distribution system. (…) Those of us who watched the rise of the Web as a new medium for publishing have seen this ecology evolve within less than a decade. In the Web’s early days, rhetoric claimed that we faced an age of disintermediation, that everyone could be his or her own publisher. But before long, individual web site owners were paying others to help them increase their visibility in Yahoo!, Google, and other search engines (the equivalent of Barnes & Noble and Borders for the Web), and Web authors were happily writing for sites like AOL and MSN, or on the technology side, Cnet, Slashdot, O’Reilly Network, and other Web publishers. Meanwhile, authors from Matt Drudge to Dave Winer and Cory Doctorow made their names by publishing for the new medium. As Jared Diamond points out in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, mathematics is behind the rise of all complex social organization. There is nothing in technology that changes the fundamental dynamic by which millions of potentially fungible products reach millions of potential consumers. The means by which aggregation and selection are made may change with technology, but the need for aggregation and selection will not. (…) To truly supplant the existing music distribution system, any replacement must develop its own mechanisms for marketing and recommendation of new music. And in fact, we already see those mechanisms emerging. File sharing services rely heavily on that most effective of marketing techniques: word of mouth. But over time, anyone who has studied the evolution of previous media will see that searches based on either pre-existing knowledge or word of mouth represent only the low-hanging fruit. As the market matures, paid marketing is added, and step by step, we build up the same rich ecology of middlemen that characterizes existing media marketplaces. New media have historically not replaced but rather augmented and expanded existing media marketplaces, at least in the short term. Opportunities exist to arbitrage between the new distribution medium and the old, as, for instance, the rise of file sharing networks has helped to fuel the trading of records and CDs (unavailable through normal recording industry channels) on eBay.

And the lessons learned:

Lesson 1: Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy. Lesson 2: Piracy is progressive taxation Lesson 3: Customers want to do the right thing, if they can. Lesson 4: Shoplifting is a bigger threat than piracy. Lesson 5: File sharing networks don’t threaten book, music, or film publishing. They threaten existing publishers. Lesson 6: “Free” is eventually replaced by a higher-quality paid service Lesson 7: There’s more than one way to do it. And that’s the ultimate lesson. “Give the wookie what he wants!” as Han Solo said so memorably in the first Star Wars movie. Give it to him in as many ways as you can find, at a fair price, and let him choose which works best for him.