If you’ve been following the news lately at all, you’ve probably heard of both the SOPA/PIPA acts against copyrights infringement, and the arrest of Megaupload’s founder, Kim Dotcom. You don’t have to be a file sharing enthusiast for these things to affect you (especially SOPA and PIPA), and while I am hardly an enthusiast myself, it’s hard to ignore the obvious connection between these events, and the obvious conclusion we should all be reaching (especially the large media companies).
Before Kim Dotcom’s much-talked-about arrest, I had no idea how much money was involved in file sharing. According to some reports, Dotcom has earned over $42 million in 2010 alone, all from his network of Mega sites, including sharks like Megavideo. That’s $42 million that this guy supposedly stole from the true owners of these materials. The total lost revenue for these companies is even more jaw-dropping, estimated at around $500 million. It’s not that Dotcom didn’t steal this money, he did. But was there an alternative?
Where Is This Money Coming From?
Megaupload is by far not the only file sharing service out there, although it was definitely one of the more successful ones. The Mega sites offered users the ability to upload and download files freely, and even stream unlimited content, all for clicking a few ads, and maybe a small subscription fee.
And people did it. Lots of people did it, and continue to do it using other websites. On Usenet, you can download all the files your heart desires for approximately $10 a month. And people do this too. There are millions, if not billions of dollars exchanging hands, all because people want to be able to share content and have access to content without limitations. People will pay $200 for a lifetime membership, or a nice monthly fee, just for that. They don’t even mind clicking a few ads along the way. It’s the content that matters.
In short, a lot of this money is coming from users, like you and me, who want something very simple. And that is by no way free content, since it’s obvious they don’t mind paying for it.
Where Is This Money NOT Going?
That’s an easy one. A lot of this money is NOT going to the actual copyrights holders. And why is that? Is it because people don’t want to pay for content? Is it because most people would rather pirate their content than pay for it fair and square? Well, that’s definitely what the guys pushing SOPA want us to believe, but I don’t think it’s true.
If you live in the US, or some countries in Europe, you may have some legal ways to access music, movies and TV shows. Services like Spotify or Netflix are highly popular (despite Netflix’s troubles as of late), and guess what, they’re not free. Many people gladly pay these monthly fees to have access to all that content, the money goes to whoever it’s supposed to go to, and everyone is happy. Well, almost.
The way copyrights work, and this has been the case for a very long time, is that each country has its own copyrights holders. Because of that, where I live, there is no Spotify, no Netflix, no Pandora, there’s barely even stuff to be bought from iTunes and Amazon (media-wise). So what am I to do? Pay for a VPN and fake my IP, or pay the same amount or less for a service that lets me download all the content I want? Either way, I’m doing something illegal.
Why SOPA Will Fail
There’s a lot of protest against SOPA. It’s been said that they’re going to censure the Internet, to put a muzzle on free sharing, and lots of other things. The truth is, SOPA is the result of people who are too scared to open their eyes and see that a new reality has been formed. They’ve been scared for quite a while, and the longer they ignore it, the harder it is to admit they’re wrong.
SOPA will not fail because people don’t want to pay for content. It will not fail because people prefer stealing over buying legally. It will not fail because we’re all a bunch of rebels who will do everything to fight the big companies. It will fail because we’re not. And they don’t want to see that. It’s much easier to think we’re all evil and need to be limited and restricted in order for us not to steal.
They’d much rather spend millions fighting and restricting, than acknowledge the simple fact that most of us want to pay. Give us a simple, fair way to download legal content around the world, and most of us will do it. Make it easy, let us share things (legally), and we’ll do it. Do they really expect us to keep buying DVDs and CDs, just because that’s the old way they like? Does the fact I don’t want to buy those mean I would prefer stealing?
As we’ve seen from recent events, the money is there to be had. The users are willing to pay. Now all that’s missing, is for the media companies to want our money enough to take it.
Will you buy content legally if it were possible and easy? Do you think most people would actually prefer stealing anyway? Let the opinions flow!