Authors Guild Demands The Impossible To Fight Piracy

Statism encourage the use of the truncheon to solve every problem. Is your neighbor is being noisy at night? Don’t go over and talk to them, sic men with guns on them! Is your new competitor stealing away some of your business? Don’t revamp your business model to more effectively compete, demand the state implement new regulations that stifle your competitor!

The problem with this mode of thinking is that it discourages creativity so when a problem that can’t be solved by the truncheon appears the only solution is to demand the impossible. That’s what the Authors Guild is doing in the name of fighting piracy:

The Authors Guild, one of the nation’s top writer’s groups, wants the US Congress to overhaul copyright law and require ISPs to monitor and filter the Internet of pirated materials, including e-books.


Rasenberger believes that ISPs have the technology and resources to remove pirated works without being notified that pirated content is on their networks. She continued:

Individual copyright owners do not have the resources to send notices for every instance of infringement online, much less to keep sending the for copies reposted after being taken down. Individuals do not have access to automated systems that track infringing copies and send notices, nor do they have the bargaining power to make the deals with ISPs that larger corporations can.

ISPs, on the other hand, do have the ability to monitor piracy. Technology that can identify and filter pirated material is now commonplace. It only makes sense, then, that ISPs should bear the burden of limiting piracy on their sites, especially when they are profiting from the piracy and have the technology to conduct automates searches and takedowns. Placing the burden of identifying pirated content on the individual author, who has no ability to have any real impact on piracy, as the current regime does, makes no sense at all. It is technology that has enabled the pirate marketplace to flourish, and it is technology alone that has the capacity to keep it in check.

Those who don’t understand the technical issues involved in piracy may believe this is a viable solution. But the stronger emphasis on security, thanks to Edward Snowden, also ensures Internet service providers (ISP) are going to be less and less able to monitor their customers’ activities. An ISP can only monitor what it can see. If piracy is happening over unencrypted connections an ISP can see it. Encrypted connections are an entirely different matter. Unless pirates are using ineffective encryption it’s not possible for an ISP to monitor their activities. It is possible for an ISP to use heuristics to estimate what customers are doing but that is a far cry from being able to say without question what a customer is doing. And an ISP doesn’t want to acquire a reputation for cutting off service and turning over customers to law enforcers without iron clad evidence of wrongdoing.

Solving digital copyright infringement, what piracy actually is, requires adjusting business models. Identifying and combating pirates is no longer feasible so copyright holders must give customers reason to choose paying them over obtaining pirated copies of works. I think the music industry is finally seeing a solution with streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Such services make it extremely easy for users to acquire and listen to music. In fact they make it easy enough that the cost of the subscription is less than the hassle of finding a pirate source of music, downloading it, and loading it onto devices and computers. While that doesn’t stop all piracy is stops a lot of it and that’s the best a copyright holder can hope for when their product can be copied infinite times with ease.

Music piracy has proven that no amount of laws will solve the problem. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the very act that is being cited by the Authors Guild, was passed, in part, as a response to music piracy. Music piracy is still a thing even though the DMCA has been on the books for years because passing a law and enforcing a law are two entirely different things.

One thought on “Authors Guild Demands The Impossible To Fight Piracy”

  1. I remember back in the day there was a bit of a DRM war between Microsoft and people who did not like DRM and Microsoft would fix a way to break their DRM and in 6-12 hours a new crack would be ready and able to go, this was also one of the strengths of open source development for the cracking tools since there were at times thousands of people developing new cracks at once so every potential method would get tested in fairly short order.

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