Australians download music illegally more frequently, by head of population, than any other country. At the same time we also happily pay for downloads and still buy physical albums at a rate which surprises the industry worldwide.
Continuing a long-standing New Year's tradition, today we present an up-to-date list of the world's most-visited BitTorrent sites. At the start of 2013 The Pirate Bay continues to pull in the most visitors, followed by KickassTorrents and Torrentz.
The nationwide Six Strikes Copyright Alert System continues to roll out with many of the details still shrouded in secrecy. The few aspects of the system that can be guaranteed are negative: open WiFi could become a thing of the past and...
Media giants and their lobbyists were dealt a crushing defeat when the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was shelved due to overwhelming Internet activism opposing it. Realizing that they can't get a law passed that would throw ...
A controversial strategy to combat Internet piracy took effect Monday, meaning subscribers who illegally share movies or songs could be punished by losing Web access or having their broadband speeds slowed to a crawl.
By invoking the acronym SOPA right at the get-go, I may be daring many of you to check the next column over for something a little less chewy. After all, SOPA, which stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, sounds like a piece of arcane Internet government regulation — legislation that entertainment companies desperately care about and that leaves Web nation and free-speech crusaders frothing at the mouth. The rest of us? What were we talking about again?
Stay with me here.
SOPA deals with technical digital issues that may seem to be a sideshow but could become crucial to American media and technology businesses and the people who consume their products. The legislation is the rare broadly bipartisan piece of apple pie. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to resume hearings on it this month and all indications are that it will approve the measure, setting up a vote in the full chamber. The Senate is also expected to vote on its own version of the bill when it returns from the holiday break.
Downloading stuff illegally online? Say hello to Internet piracy rehab. Instead of 12 steps, users get six warnings. That's part of a program that begins this week dubbed "Six Strikes". Under Six Strikes, Internet Service Providers send out warnings to users suspected of pirating online content.
Some of the participating ISP's include Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T. Jill Lesser, executive director for the Center for Copyright Information, the group leading the program, says a lot of those who share illegal content don't realize it's wrong.
"We are hopeful that the vast majority of people engaging in this behavior will change their behavior when they're informed in a way that's useful," she says.
So part of the new copyright alert system includes tips like how to secure your wireless connection and where to find legal downloads. If users keep pirating content online, ISP's can slow their Internet connection dramatically. Or users might have to watch a five-minute video on copyright infringement.
Benjamin Lennett, policy director for the Open Technology Institute, warns that content owners can ultimately use the program to cut off users' Internet connections.
"There's no cost for the content industry to submit as many requests to ISP's as they want," he says. "And this will all happen with very little transparency for the public."
Lennett says the new program offers no checks and balances for the content industry, so even if it seems weak on the surface, the copyright program can easily spiral out of control against users.
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Now that the SOPA and PIPA fights have died down, and Hollywood prepares their next salvo against internet freedom with ACTA and PCIP, it's worth pausing to consider how the war on piracy could actually be won.
The so-called "six strikes" copyright alert system is supposed to launch sometime soon, although the exact date isn't clear. As it draws closer, the group in charge of the effort, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), has responded to press reports, including a report from Ars, noting that the six-strikes system could hurt small businesses by throttling the speed of their Wi-Fi connections.
In a post arguing that the new alert system "will not harm public Wi-Fi," CCI director Jill Lesser writes that public Wi-Fi access such as that found in "a major coffee or restaurant chain, or at a public location like a park or transportation terminal, or even the public library" won't be included in the "six strikes" system.
However, the exemption being offered to these public spaces is premised on an assumption: that they're using more expensive, business-class Internet service. Businesses "like Starbucks that provide legitimate open Wi-Fi connections, will have an Internet that is tailored to a business operation," and thus won't be roped in to the copyright alert system.
The implication seems to be that any Internet connection that is used to make money should either be an expensive business-class connection, or it's likely not a "legitimate" account. (In our last story, a Verizon spokesperson said that running a public hotspot on a consumer-grade account is a violation of the company's terms of service.)
While copyright owners test the legal limits of website takedown processes and push legislation greatly expanding powers to limit file sharing on the open Internet, a company that helps corporations protect intellectual property argues there is a better way: create more user-friendly services for acquiring legitimate content.
Envisional, a firm familiar to Ars readers because of a study funded by NBC Universal 12 months ago, has produced data that content owners might say is an argument in favor of pending legislation like Protect-IP and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which have been criticized by many advocates of Internet freedom.
But in a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show titled "The State of Digital Piracy," Envisional's head of piracy intelligence, David Price, said the large levels of pirated content downloaded on sites and BitTorrent proves something else: that content owners aren't offering enough legitimate, user-friendly avenues to get content.
There are basically three approaches for content owners, Price says. One is to sue sites out of existence, which has worked in some cases. Another is to push legislation such as the aforementioned bills. But in the long run, the most effective method is to simply compete more effectively, something Netflix has already achieved to great effect.
Despite the content industry's success shutting some sites down, piracy still flourishes through BitTorrent, cyberlockers, peer-to-peer networks, and video streaming, Price argued. While piracy is unlikely to ever stop completely, many Internet users will turn to legitimate alternatives if the price and service are right.
"The content owners are really fighting the tide of the Internet," Price said. "They're trying to fight the flow of the Internet which is all about making content as widely available as possible, as easily as possible, as quickly as possible. They're trying to hold back the 1.4 billon users of the Internet from doing what the Internet wants them to do."
As far as SOPA and Protect-IP, Price says lobbyists he speaks with "are fairly confident at least one of these bills will come into law in the next six months or so."
We've written about the hugely-successful Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho many times before, because he is a great example of an artist embracing piracy as a boon not a bane. So it's great to see him offering his thoughts on SOPA:
"I have nothing against people earning money from their books; that’s how I make my living."
"But look at what’s happening now. Stop Online Piracy Act (S.O.P.A) may disrupt internet. This is a REAL DANGER, not only for Americans, but for all of us, as the law – if approved – will affect the whole planet."
"And how do I feel about this?"
"As an author, I should be defending ‘intellectual property’, but I’m not."
"Pirates of the world, unite and pirate everything I’ve ever written!"
He then goes on to address two common objections to this attitude: that's he's rich enough to distribute books for free, and that other artists need money to live. To the first, he points out that being rich means he could have stopped writing years ago. He keeps on creating for the same reason that he started when he was unknown and poor: "because it gives me pleasure and gives meaning to my existence." To the second point, he writes:
CISPA may have cleared the U.S. House of Representatives, but the fight isn't over. It's shifted to the U.S. Senate. Here's CNET's FAQ on what you need to know about this particularly controversial Internet bill.
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