Friday, January 6, 2012

On Illegal File Sharing

Some Swedes just got their new religion officially recognized by their government. Their religion founded by a 19 year-old philosophy major, which canonizes the act of file sharing, considers such an act religious freedom, and worships the actions and symbols for CTRL+C/CTRL+V.

Let's get real, for a minute.

I love this idea. This is wonderfully, delightfully, youthfully misguided. It's reminiscent of some of my favorite cyberpunk stories, where information is freely distributed by anyone and everyone, having near-physical presence in a world combining the material and the digital.

Of course, it also goes without saying the characters doing this are always hackers, conspiracy junkies, or just generally kids racking up huge bills on daddy's charge account downloading new purse designs. Simply worded, the sharing of such restricted files is still pretty clearly illegal in these worlds. The characters just live outside normal rules. Great job.

"Ahh! Fine champagne, metal lingerie, and innocent Saphic trysts; the future is alight
with the airs of black-market contraband and virtual reality prostitutes.
Thank god I work for the government."

I won't pretend the internet's best stuff isn't illegal. I'm fairly certain no one would play the Helicopter Game for 45 minutes straight if not for the prospect of doing that during a high school physics class, in violation f school computer use guidelines and utilizing a proxy network instead of working out some practice free-fall equations. It's the illicit that makes it worthwhile.

Here's the trick:

There will never be enough restrictions to keep illegal file sharing from happening. It'll happen. Much like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, "nature finds a way." Put up a wall, hackers and coders will evolve a new method of scaling it. Then it'll catch on, and by the time you figure it out enough to counteract it, it's already three fads back and full of nothing but spam links and porn. (But not the porn you might actually search for, completely different, low-rent porn in crap quality but still named like it was the porn you originally wanted.)

I remember using Napster back when it was new and–well, not legal, but not yet able to have been declared officially illegal. I remember switching to KaZaA before Napster got shut down. Then there was DC++ in college and torrenting, and RapidShares, and a billion other similar sites. And guess what?

I don't even torrent anymore. For the most part, it's no longer a concern of mine to have everything ever. I don't need it, and I certainly don't need getting sued. More importantly, I'm a Big Person now. I have the $15 a month it would cost to be a Netflix and Hulu Plus member. Sure, I'll download any music or televised show not legally available in my country, like a live set or an unbroadcast series without American licensing companies, but as far as copyrighted audio and video goes, I can afford to support the poor schlub who worked his ass off to try and become rich and famous.

YouTube is full of too many people clawing for both and only ending up with the latter.

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