Media Identities: why pirate music?


Interesting read in the Guardian about the history of music downloading, with an extract from a new book (How Music Got Free). This article is interesting from the perspective of both impact of new media and media identities because the question comes up – all of this piracy stuff is very involved, complex, awkward, even expensive. Why do it, when downloading from iTunes is easier? Snip:

Oink’s heavily trafficked user forums revealed a community that resembled Ellis himself: technically literate middle-class twentysomethings, mostly male, enrolled in university or employed in entry-level jobs. A significant number of members weren’t even that lucky, but were instead what the British government called “Neets”: Not in Education, Employment, or Training. Concerts were a popular topic of discussion; so were drugs. One of the busiest threads on the site simply asked “Why Do You Pirate Music?” Thousands of different answers came in. Oinkers talked of cost, contempt for major labels, the birth of a new kind of community, courageous political activism, and sometimes simply greed. The biggest draw of all was the mere existence of such forums. They were a place to learn about emerging technology, about new bands, about underground shows. iTunes was just a store, basically a mall – Oink was a community.

New Statesman | “Fifteen years of utter bollocks”: how a generation’s freeloading has starved creativity


It’s true that some of the classic excuses for piracy had their brief moments of seeming credibility. In 2000, when the debate over digital piracy sprung to life, we didn’t have content providers like Spotify or Netflix, much less iTunes. The fact that there were so few legal options for consuming digital content was one of the main rationalisations for taking a soft stance toward piracy. The legitimate digital market was either too inconvenient or nonexistent, and piracy filled in these gaps in the developing web.

via New Statesman | “Fifteen years of utter bollocks”: how a generation’s freeloading has starved creativity.

Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown – Andy Ihnatko’s Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA)


Andy Ihnatko’s follow-up to the Oatmeal comic is worth a read.

Here’s the terms of use for commercial content: you have to pay for this stuff. This means either you need to wait for it to become commercially available, or if you torrent it today you need to buy it when it gets released. So long as you buy it as soon as it’s possible to do so, I can confidently reach for my “No Harm Done” rubber stamp. Some content is commercially unavailable because the publisher or distributor has no desire to ever release it. I’ll even go so far as to say that downloading it illegally is a positive thing; you’re helping to keep this creative work alive.

via Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown – Andy Ihnatko’s Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA).

thanks to daring fireball for the link

ebooks and pirates


Here’s an interesting little analysis by Bobbie Johnson in
the Guardian about why the electronic book isn’t taking off.

Johnson’s argument is a good one. MP3s took off because CDs were already digital files, and converting one digital format to another is a trivial thing to do. The music industry didn’t start offering official downloads until their hand had been forced.

For the electronic book, the same effect doesn’t really apply, because there aren’t loads of readily available electronic versions of books available for bootlegging. Very few authors and publishers have even PDF versions “out there”.

In the history of technology, it has often been something slightly dodgy that caused something to become successful. In the case of the compact cassette, it was home taping. In the case of VHS video, it was p-o-r-n. In the case of the world wide web, it was, er, p-o-r-n. For the MP3 player, it was the illegal download (originally via napster).

For the electronic book? Well, according to Johnson, what the Amazon Kindle or the Sony e-Reader need are illegal book downloads, but I’m not even sure what file formats those devices read. If they’re locked to proprietary file formats (i.e. not PDF), then they will never be successful. The iPod works not because of the iTunes music store, but because it will playback your bog-standard MP3 as well as the AAC from the iTunes MS.

The existence of the public domain surely won’t do any harm, since you’ll be able to freely swap and share anything written by someone who died over 75 years ago, but Shakespeare and Jane Austen are hardly going to shift sexy little electronic devices.

They’ll be home by Christmas



What’s going on with these piracy stories? The latest story concerns yet another cargo ship being hijacked – this one full of wheat.

What with that, the oil tanker (currently anchored off the coast of “failed state” Somalia), the story about the possible shortage of Wii consoles this Christmas (due to Piracy) and the story about the British frigate that engaged with a pirate ship, killing two and arresting eight others, there’s a positive pirate epidemic at the moment.

The furious Saudi Royal Family responded to the attack today by comparing the banditry with terrorism and demanding an international crackdown on the pirates.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that international piracy had suddenly got much worse: actually, the number of attacks worldwide has fallen – apart from in the coastal waters of Somalia.

It’s almost as if – but surely not? – we were being softened up for a(nother) military adventure into a(nother) failed state, in order to sort out the problem of pirates, and little kiddies not getting their christmas pressies (and Saudi princes being out of pocket).


The international effort to stop piracy off Somalia has not worked and the effort clearly needs to be stepped up into a higher gear.
The naval forces are growing all the time. There is already a small flotilla of warships in the region from the US, UK, Canada, France, Turkey, Germany, Russia and India, among others.
This shows how the world’s trading powers regard the piracy as a joint threat.

It’s okay, though: just as with all the other wars over the past 100 years, they’ll be home by Christmas.