STOPPING online piracy is like playing the world’s largest game of Whac-A-Mole.
Hit one, countless others appear. Quickly. And the mallet is heavy and slow.
It is only going to get worse. Piracy has started to move beyond the Internet and media and into the physical world. People on the fringes of tech, often early adopters of new devices and gadgets, are now working with 3-D printers that can churn out actual physical objects. Say you need a wall hook or want to replace a bit of hardware that fell off your luggage. You can download a file and “print” these objects with printers that spray layers of plastic, metal or ceramics into shapes.
And people are beginning to share files that contain the schematics for physical objects on these BitTorrent sites. Although 3-D printing is still in its infancy, it is soon expected to become as pervasive as illegal music downloading was in the late 1990s.
Content owners will find themselves stuck behind ancient legal walls when trying to stop people from downloading objects online as copyright laws do not apply to standard physical objects deemed “noncreative.”
In the arcade version of Whac-A-Mole, the game eventually ends — often when the player loses. In the piracy arms-race version, there doesn’t seem to be a conclusion. Sooner or later, the people who still believe they can hit the moles with their slow mallets might realize that their time would be better spent playing an entirely different game.