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Dig Deep To Get the Truth About File Sharing

By Jon Newton
Dec 1, 2004 5:00 AM PT

"'Regardless of what people found in the early days of lawsuits,' says Eric Garland, head of research firm BigChampagne LLC, which tracks Internet activity, 'the consensus now is that file sharing is hitting all-time highs.'"

Dig Deep To Get the Truth About File Sharing

That's Garland quoted in Canada's MacLeans and he's referring to the fact that, claims from the Big Four music cartel notwithstanding, lawsuits aren't doing much to stop people around the world from sharing files, including music and movies.

Garland should know. It's his business to track what's happening on the P2P networks, and his statement is backed by academic studies both in the U.S. and Canada which show P2P file sharing is here to stay, no matter how much the entertainment industry may exaggerate the success of its "sue 'em all" lawsuits.

Grist for the Mill

The subject under discussion in MacLeans is TV shows and how "the scary numbers indicating that the next big craze in illegal file-sharing is not music, not movies, but television."

There's nothing particularly new about the fact that TV shows are on the P2P networks. They've been there almost since Day One. What's more likely is that a segment of the entertainment industry is hauling out another excuse to justify its vain efforts to sue people into buying its wares.

"News Corp.'s Peter Chernin cuts a confident figure at the podium, but he's worried," the MacLeans piece says. "Speaking about the challenges facing media companies at a consumer forum two months ago, the COO of the Fox empire outlined his 10 rules for survival.

"Rule No. 1: Consumers will always want to control how, where and when they get their entertainment, demanding maximum ease and convenience. But it's the last rule that's the clear crux of Chernin's message: 'All the other rules are meaningless,' he says, his voice growing more forceful, 'if content is not protected from digital thievery.'"

Finally. At least one spokesman for a major component of the entertainment industry gets it: "Consumers will always want to control how, where and when they get their entertainment, demanding maximum ease and convenience. All the other rules are meaningless...."

Customers, Not Consumers

What's really frightening Chernin and his ilk is that he is 100 percent correct, and, thanks to the Internet and P2P networks and applications, for the first time in history, consumers can control how, where and when. Because they're no longer 'consumers' whose sole purpose in the eyes of the entertainment industry is to 'consume' without question or thought whatever's dished out. They've become 'customers' again -- people who know what they want and how to get it.

The entertainment industry in the U.S., via the MPAA and RIAA, is doing its damndest to sue "consumers" back into buying product instead of exercising choice and in this, they have the whole-hearted, enthusiastic support of the mainstream media who faithfully repeat just about everything the members of the Big Four music cartel and seven major studios churn out as if it comes from credible sources.

Not that they have much choice: In many instances they're owned directly or indirectly by the entertainment industry they're reporting on.

Canadians, Beware

And now the Canadian media are following suit.

Customers are back to being "consumers" again -- irresponsible beings who have to be shown what to do by the kindly members of the entertainment industry whose sole purpose is to serve, only to serve.

However, in Canada, P2P file distribution isn't illegal. In fact, as author and digital-copyright.ca Web master Russell McOrmond points out, increasing numbers of musicians are specifically authorizing the distribution of their works over the P2P networks.

One such artist, he told me, is Toronto's Fading Ways, one of the first labels with worldwide distribution to announce it would use Creative Commons licensing for its CDs.

This means the labels are no longer in total control, and it's called "competition," a word loathed and feared by the record label cartel, none of whom are based in Canada. And that's why they've launched a major recovery effort in Canada with a dog-and-pony show featuring Canadian music stars they have under contract.

The music cartel wants to bamboozle Canadians, the Canadian media and Canadian lawmakers in the same way they've been able to scam Americans into thinking they're being ruined by file sharing when in reality, they're raking in enormous fortunes every day.

Misrepresenting Truth

As McOrmond says, "Many media outlets just republish misinformation from the recording industry without doing any research.

"The most obvious example was the laughable suggestion that the copyright act hasn't been updated since 1908 when the smallest amount of research would have confirmed it was updated earlier this year. And with a little more research, they'd have discovered that in 1997, there were massive changes made at the request of the recording industry, changes it now claims are hurting them."

Canada is in an interesting situation. Compared to America, Canada has a small population and no true national media pool -- that's to say, a large number of major media organs with widely varying perspectives and political persuasions in competition with each other to supply the news.

So if the entertainment industry can succeed in getting its message more or less verbatim into the Globe & Mail, the various Sun publications, national magazines such as Macleans and the handful of similar "national" publications, as it seems to be doing, it's way ahead of the game -- even more so than in the U.S.

Like all politicians, Canadian "representatives of the people" will head wherever there's the most noise. And Big Music is making a lot of noise -- all of it from Big Music's standpoint.

"Musicians Demand Ottawa Protect Them from Music Piracy," said 14 different Google News headlines from publications across Canada, all parroting the same Canadian Press story.

What's the Real Deal?

"Musicians Call for an Update on Copyright Law," say two more stories, with "Musicians Want Protection from Piracy" as one more headline.

And that's it.

In fact, the musicians haven't really demanded anything. The cartel-owned CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association of America) is behind the massive PR exercise, having provided the musicians with its own one-sided statistics with which to con the media and, through them, bring Canadian politicians into line -- Big Music's line.

The men, women and children who share files online and who've been turned into virtual criminals by the Big Music cartel (none with a Canadian base) and major studios aren't the Bad Guys. The real villains are the organized international gangs who are making fortunes through fake and counterfeit product, laughing all the way as they run rings around the entertaiment industry and its enforcement organizations such as the CRIA, RIAA and MPAA.

Potential Fix

But there's a remedy. The counterfeit criminals would be largely out of business without physical product that can be duped and copied. The industry could use digital technologies and P2P networks to store, promote and sell product. That would slash expenditure on overhead, physical production, packaging, PR, law suits, and so on.

In other words, P2P file sharers could become customers again and P2P file sharing could work for, instead of against, the industry and its contracted artists.


Jon Newton, a TechNewsWorld columnist, founded and runs p2pnet.net, a daily peer-to-peer and digital media news site focused on issues surrounding file-sharing, the entertainment industry and distributed computing. p2pnet is based in Canada where sharing music online is legal.


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