Posted by: Dylan | April 2, 2009

File Sharing and The Future of Media

The entertainment industry is becoming public property. As various types of media have been converted to digital formats, they have lost the sense of singular ownership and have moved onto the Internet, where the content can be easily accessed by anyone. Users can share and distribute files to strangers over network. Long gone are the times when one would need to make a copy of a CD and manually give it to a friend. The ease of sharing files has led to widespread free distribution, much of which infringes on copyright laws and is illegal. Despite the dangers that come from breaking a law, the number of people who illegally share files is increasing in number. The increase in Internet connection speeds has allowed faster downloads and thereby made file sharing a valid form of obtaining all kinds of media, ranging from smaller songs to large movies and games.

One way of sharing files is through the use of BitTorrent. BitTorrent uses something called a torrent file, which is linked to the file someone wishes to share. When a user runs the file in a torrent program the file connects to others who are also running the file. If one of those users has the actual file to be shared, he or she can upload it while others simultaneously download missing components and upload portions they have as well. In order to find torrent files, there are many websites that share these files. These websites are called torrent trackers.

One of the largest torrent trackers is “The Pirate Bay”, located in Sweden. The website had been threatened with lawsuits on multiple occasions but it still continued operation. On January 31, 2008, Swedish prosecutors filed charges against The Pirate Bay for copyright infringement and the case went to court. Individuals, not The Pirate Bay, upload all the illegal files, but the Pirate Bay also does not remove any of them. The question is whether or not it was The Pirate Bay is actually propagating the spreading of files. The trials have finished, and the Swedish court will issue a verdict on April 17th.

Whether or not The Pirate Bay is charged with breaking the law, file sharing will only continue to grow. It is becoming a part of the industry, and those who intend to make money off of intellectual property must adapt. Companies have attempted to fight this growing trend by using Digital Rights Management (DRM), which attaches code to a file that is used to either lock the content into a program, prevent it from being copied, or insure that it is a registered product. All of the DRM code is eventually broken, allowing people to do as they choose with the files, and it remains a nuisance to the regular consumer who might want to move a song from one program to another. Companies will soon stop fighting piracy to such an extent as they currently are and focus on taking advantage of the Internet capabilities.

The music industry is the one being hit the hardest by file sharing and the one that has been adapting to the new landscape the quickest. Success for a modern musician is defined as selling a huge number of albums in a short time. The one-hit-wonder is what record companies attempt to produce, with any long-lasting artists being an additional benefit. This business model is being indirectly challenged as a result of file sharing. There will be a shift away from this plan and towards instead developing a smaller but more devoted and consistent audience. Because files can be easily stolen, the people trying to sell music must find consumers that are willing to pay for the product. Those who would spontaneously buy a popular album might just download it illegally, but a band that has a loyal following will have paying customers.

Currently, a few large corporations produce the media. Numerous TV stations all reside under the same network umbrella. Virtually all artists need a publisher or host of some sort in order to reach the masses, but this is changing. The Internet allows for quicker and cheaper distribution. Independent artists will become more common and they will be able to make a living producing and releasing their own content. For all the harm that Internet can bring to the entertainment industry, it will also bring about positive changes.

Technology has repeatedly mutated and reformed the entertainment industry. It has created new types of media and new ways to package it. The CD allowed music to be portable, and MP3 players made music even more portable. There have been previous crises brought about by technologic changes. Television brought free content to users and from this the television advertising industry boomed. The industry is undergoing a tumultuous time and the exact outcome cannot be predicted. It is certain, however, that the entertainment industry will not crumble, but will emerge refined and vigorous.

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Responses

  1. It will be interesting to know the verdict handed down on the The Pirate Bay case. It could set some precedent on those very issues in that part of the world…and perhaps influence ours as well. It is very hard to manage and protect IP. I was speaking to a paralegal whose job it is to seek out people stealing IP from one of our larger PA companies and what their legal department goes through on a daily basis to simply make sure people don’t infringe on their business name, logod etc (IP) is very difficult to keep up with…I don’t most companies could ever keep up with the general population who may infringe on music, business names, logos etc….businesses may have to suffer loss on some scale until they come up with something to supervise cyberspace. This is the age in which we live! We can’t keep up with technology nor respond quick enough to the problems that arise even though man has created it all. Something bigger than DRM may be the answer to deter some of these issues. I can barely keep up with email that I get on a daily basis. : ) Thanks for yet another thoughtful, informative and intellectual article and another opportunity to converse! Looking forward to the next article. Keep it up!

  2. Thank you for the comments, Andrea. It is nice to see your opinion on the topics as well. That’s cool that you have had direct communication with someone who is involved in this issue. Like you said, it is very hard to monitor all of the IP infringement. A lot of the DRM used is helpful for deterring this to a certain extent, but it prevents a lot of things that should be acceptable. This is the actual DRM software’s fault. For example, you can’t upload a movie into iTunes and then watch it on your iPod. You need to break the DRM first. People that want to use their media for legal purposes are put at an inconvenience. I think that DRM will eventually disappear because it doesn’t really stop those that want to break the law, only those that abide by it.


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