Two news items this week display the different fortunes of different sorts of pirate.
First we have a Pirate ‘washes ashore with cash’ from Monday when the Somali pirates en route home from collecting their ransom for the Sirius Star super-tanker capsized. Most swam ashore without the loot, one kept the loot and drowned – his family now have $150,000 drying on washing lines…
Second, we have the statistics produced by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) who have said that the music Pirates win music download battle. This is something that I’ve mentioned several times in these pages i.e. the issue of copyright theft, usually with reference to Crawling Chaos. However, it extends far, far beyond this.
Initially, (and still is), it was a case of everyone wanting (and being able to get) something for nothing. This has effectively made all music totally disposable as it’s seen to be value-less. This is confirmed by the IFPI estimate that 95% of music is un-paid-for (copied) nowadays. Bizarrely, when the word “pirate” is bandied around it is usually applied to Joe Public. In reality though, Joe Public is increasingly made to pay for these “free” downloads of cracked music and software by various social engineering means…. e.g. for anyone that’s checked or used these places, it’s becoming common for users;
- to be “registered” (whatever that means)
- to pay a premium for “pro” download speeds (whatever that means)
- to pay to maintain the “service” – “to our customers”… ditto above …
- to “check out our partners” – which invariably lead to shadier and dodgier places
I’m sure many people have seen this stuff – and all to get “free” music or games. So the real pirates are increasingly big business – the type of big business that doesn’t pay taxes and the type that usually asks you to pay for protection. The type that trancends national boundaries and will do anything to extort money from everyone. Moving with the times, they’ve now bought up the script kiddies who’ve grown up, to control the computer botnets, corrupt software and infect everyone with trojans, worms, keyloggers and other malware to siphon off cash from anyone. A wonderful delivery method is through software (or music) that people will willingly download…. Today’s latest is that 3 million have been hit by a windows worm!
So the pirates are the big mafia types, in no way different to the cut-throats of old.
As with everything in life, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and someone will have to pay somehow at some point. And like the Somali pirates found out, sometimes the costs are pretty high. For music, it’s performers and the public, the old model has changed, just don’t expect everything to be always present, ready to consume, in future. Sustainability is a term usually applied to “the environment” but equally, it applies to everything in life, including music production and choice. It applies to having sustained easy access to a PC and the internet. Even these simple acts are becoming more fraught with technical and political obstacles being raised to counter the “terrorist threat”.
All these things, while being different in their effect or original intention, are all connected to the whole “computer thing” because that is the delivery method. Like the air, we all have to breathe it. If you want to access the internet, you access it via a technology not a device, because the same underlying technology is behind all devices from mobile phones to internet banking servers.