Crackdown on Illegal File Sharing

There have been a few news stories that caught my attention recently about illegal downloading that got me thinking more about the future regulations on our Internet in regards to file sharing.  Illegal downloading is just one of many misuses of the information technologies that we have today. I wouldn’t even say that it is highly severe compared to other criminal activities that have taken advantage of our Internet such as human trafficking, identity theft and many other black market services. Either way, it is a large issue and has been especially devastating for the record companies, movie studios, book publishers and many software developers. As long as these industries see a drop in profits I don’t see how they will stop fighting against illegal downloading, and I am certain that in the future we will see a much more regulated internet when it comes to file sharing. I have heard stories related to downloading lawsuits here and there for some time, but lately it seems like there is escalating pressure being put on the “big dogs” of illegal file distribution.

Here a couple of recent stories that I have read which confirm copyright holders will continue to be proactive in their fight –

RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) vs. LimeWire

A Federal Court Judge has recently ruled against LimeWire in a copyright violation case which will likely be the end of LimeWire as we know it. This is probably the most shocking of all stories and will have the most impact on downloaders as a whole considering 60% of people who downloaded songs used LimeWire. In my opinion this is even bigger than the former Napster being shut down, and is a step forward for the recording industry but realistically there are still many other gnutella driven software still out there, not to mention the emergence of torrent files over the last decade. Also, there is nothing stopping other similar services operating from countries that go unregulated in this area. Still, I think if the record industry is going to gain any ground it will be in their best interest to go after the “hands that feed” like they did here. I like this approach vs. what the RIAA has done in the past by going sue happy on individuals who use these readily available services. With millions using these sites, it is completely unfair to select only a few to prosecute. For example, one case that stuck out to me as overly erroneous was last year when 32 year old single mother of 4 was ordered to pay 1.92 million in damages for downloading 24 songs. I just do not get what was accomplished here, ruining 5 lives over chump change to the 6 different record labels the damages were awarded. Maybe they realized that scare tactics such as this one do not work and have moved to the bigger fish, because your chances of getting nabbed are still less than getting struck by lightning.

The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus releases a list of targeted “notorious” file-sharing sites.

This is the first year that the Congressional International Anti-Piracy has released such a list, even though since the groups formation in 2003 they annually release a list countries which have insufficient copyright laws. The sites on this list are The Pirate Bay of Sweden, isoHunt of Canada, Mp3fiesta of Ukraine, Rapidshare of Germany, RMX4U.com of Luxembourg, and Baidu of China. These sites are mainly torrent search engines which have become the biggest threat to copyright holders. To tackle this issue they are going to have to take an international approach and gain some cooperation from other countries. If they are able to do this then we might actually see some real change.  It appears by calling out these internationally operated sites, the group knows full well what they need to do to gain some ground.

An even larger problem for the film and recording industry is the increasing advancement of streaming technologies. There are many sites now in which you can view pirated films via streaming which gives the user a more convenient way to break the law by not having to wait for a file to download and people feel much safer with it as they never possess a digital copy. Just a warning though, do not think that just because you are not downloading a file means that you will be exempt from consequences. Your IP can be tracked while streaming just like you downloaded the file, and in the future I am certain these streaming sites will be highly regulated as well. Even though I am an advocate for Internet anonymity in many aspects, it is very hard for me not to respect copyrighted material and I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more order.