What To Do About Music Piracy
“ It [researching piracy] was valuable learning and my address book is now loaded with email contacts at dozens of labels I never had any reason to know. ”
The online theft of what is generally called Intellectual Property has gotten to the point of triggering backlash which began in November, 2010, when the Department of Homeland Security began to implement significant legal actions against a motley of online sites and counterfeit goods vendors.
The whole problem is exacerbated by safe harbor rulings dating back to the waning days of the Clinton administration, amid the height of dot com bubble frenzy and before the profound changes in content potential, following the build out of Web 2.0. At that time there was impetus to boost this new emerging jobs engine that accompanied the bubble.
This is the troublesome relic and here is Google's current answer. Huge, bloated Google is at the center of this mess. Some aspects are clearly not its fault, while others are more open to question and it is pretty confusing.
Google began as a "plumbing" outfit, making pipelines for content and a search system for finding it. Its original outlook has long been agnostic about what the content is. That may still be the most important thing to understand when making a game plan for coping with the collateral damage it has spawned as, in many ways, it is double-edged and the content community has been slow to use the facets that are helpful.
Yes, it sucks that the search system lets you easily find torrent download sites, but that can be good for the same reason. It makes reporting them easier. Torrent sites are the trailer trash side of music theft. More fastidious freeloaders avoid them because the sound quality is reputed to suck and the things are infested with malware. They are a job for the Fed unit, the ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Division), with its brand new National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
To get a sense of how one Google hand is oblivious to another, one need only compare YouTube with Blogger, and how the two divisions handle intellectual property complaints and problems. And it ends up manifestly unfair and half-assed for the following reason.
YouTube got pummeled early by the content industry so it has an elaborate and often confusing system of escalating responses to infringement complaints. They are strict, and the confusions are a regular item in the Feedback and Suggestion Forum there.
And yet, YouTube really boils down to free advertising for the content world. It is pretty difficult for most people to download (I don't know how to do it), and it doesn't lend itself well to file sharing. But it is more obvious and probably the closest thing to a social network play that Google has. It is also a "gotta have" website feature, along with Twitter, the Facebook "Like" function, and Google Maps.
YouTube is like the good kid who gets blamed for the stuff its evil twin does, and that would be Blogger.
I have built five blogs using the Blogger template and have been using it since autumn, 2006. My return to jazz advocacy began with a blog that I've now more or less given away to focus advocacy work here at All About Jazz.
It's a honey of a template; not too many bugs and all the features you could reasonably want. I'll keep using it for non-musical content, but I'm done with giving it free content for music until it cleans house and that may be coming sooner than many think.
It is a template of choice for dozens of would-be Robin Hoods giving away hundreds of legacy titles, corroding catalog value at a time when catalog depth is one of the most essential aspects of recorded music sales. And it is fairly sneaky, until you figure out how it works. The blogger secretes inactive links in the comments like the screenshot below. (I have redacted most of the code)
Music Thief said...
JANUARY 2, 2011 3:17 PM
The content of these things tends to be cut-and-paste. The album cover visual is from Google Images, post copy is from Scott Yanow or some other prolific record reviewer. The quality is higher, usually FLAC files or high end MP3. No, I'm not linking to a single one of them. This particular rodeo clown was a stalker and pest at my blog, and getting rid of him was a headache, so I just focused on his music theft blog and cratered it with piracy reports.
It was valuable learning, and my address book is now loaded with email contacts at dozens of labels I never had any reason to know. Google is generally unhelpful. Its reaction to problems its template causes has been inconsistent and spasmodic. A year or so back they were trigger-happy, and were nearly as strict as YouTube. The past year they've been so lax and sloppy, I soon determined that the most useful way to do a takedown was by hitting another critical point in the chain, the so-called "locker sites" a thief needs to store cumbersome download files.
That URL snippet above is actually a key to a "locker," with the music in it. That is mainly what these businesses do. They are technically just a kind of data transfer service but are mainly obsolete, in a time of cloud computing. Things go obsolete fast in web land, so their main remaining "customers" are music thieves. They do respond more quickly to takedown notices, as I discovered, to my immense amusement, by watching the comment reactions over at Mr Thief's stupid vanity blog.
I call these bloggers a flea circus, as a counterpart to the flea markets, where the Fed busts vendors of fake Gucci bags. They are vain and disturbed and, no doubt, paranoid at this point, what with all the lurking industry attorneys. Mr. Thief wants tribute in the form of ass-kissing comments thanking him, oh so much, for the wonderful lost music. He gets petulant when the praise ain't flowing. He is also jealous of other thieves who may steal his thief links to post in their own blogs to hog credit. He's been known to serve takedown notices on them. What a fun bunch, huh?
At the end of the day, these clods are probably doomed. You see, Google is increasingly eager to get a slice of download music sales with its knock off of iTunes, but the music industry is steamed and, so far, telling the Goog to piss up a rope. How long do you think the flea circus is going to last in that environment?