A Futile October Surge in the Media’s War on Piracy

    Apparently, the Man feels that if he’s going to arrest the
    users and suppliers, he should take down the doorkeeper to the pirated-media
    flophouse as well. That’s what transpired last month, when British police
    arrested the 26-year-old maintainer of TV-Links, the biggest Internet index of
    online film and television, for either copyright or trademark infringement (the
    UK feds haven’t yet made up their minds). The Web site’s owner never hosted a
    movie or TV show, but he did set up thousands of frequently updated links to
    unaffiliated hosting sites, including Google Video and other variations of
    YouTube, turning the online card catalogue into a haven for Web subversives —
    and, naturally, a pariah for anti-piracy executives.

    We’re told that the issue at hand is that TV-Links provides
    portholes to copyrighted material — the
    ethics and legality of which has never been resolved (imagine how many of our
    Facebook links would warrant an arrest) — but this public
    tarring-and-feathering is just another concrete slab proving that media
    producers and distributors have yet to find a constructive way to functionally
    adapt to the net. Instead, they’ve opted to declare their own War on Terror — an
    equally absurd War on Stealing. Next time we decide to wage combat against an
    intangible idea, I nominate idiocy.

    Last month not only saw the disconnection of TV-Links (which
    didn’t really do anything other than force the junkies to translocate their hunt
    to the hosting sites), but also the removal of copyrighted clips from YouTube
    (the pending lawsuit with Viacom indicates Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert may
    testify) — and, to the terror of all you music folk, the shut-down of Oink’s
    Pink Palace, the exclusive and premier torrent tracker. All in all,
    anti-Internet media fuzz have had quite the October mop-up.

    And yet fresh clone sites spawn every day, thumbing their
    nose at the entertainment establishment, taunting “Destroy all you want, we’ll
    make more!” And instead of playing bad-cop, media corporations wield their
    judicial support, then try to placate download fanatics with a truce. This was
    the iTunes plan of selling songs at one buck a pop — a noble idea of the new
    music marketplace, and one that created a low-cost but effective monopoly for
    Apple, but with the flawed flat rate that posed problems for how a song’s
    popularity and length should factor into the price.

    So instead of adjusting their system, Apple and the media
    companies told consumers to take it or leave it, and the iTunes dissenters
    could return to illegal P2Ps. The cycle continues: P2P/Torrent/Host gets
    caught, goes legit, and the illegal hotspot moves a few IP addresses over.

    We are starting to see solutions. Networks like NBC and Fox
    are allowing some episodes to be broadcast on their Web sites, and the first
    real headway in online movie watching has been made with Netflix’s Instant
    Watching program. But by and large,
    America’s media empires still share its current administration’s idea of
    how to fight a guerilla war: with the classically flawed invasion strategy of
    sending in all manpower without tact or foresight. We’ve passed the advent of
    Napster and i2Hub, so why are we only now starting to see aggressive media
    engagement with the Internet? This issue should have been resolved by the
    moguls back in 2002, instead of holding out for a change of course until 2007.

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