The online copyright war has expanded over the years to cover much more than suppressing P2P or file-sharing networks. It’s also become a war or words, where both sides use the media to influence public opinion. Although the entertainment industry’s public relations capabilities exceeded P2P’s influence several years back, the rapidly changing face of mass media has altered this notion.
This change is largely due to the empowerment of the Internet. It has allowed individuals with minimal resources to reach a maximum audience. Smaller news organizations such as TorrentFreak.com can easily rival the mass media ability of large organization such as the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America.) News aggregators such as Digg.com or SlashDot.org also help reach this end, which often times help smaller sites achieve their wide scale publication potential. Especially noteworthy is the mass media capability of The Pirate Bay, which completely undermined the entertainment industry’s public relations attempts earlier this month.
Smaller online news organizations often provide an alternative perspective compared to more traditional or mainstream publications. In the P2P news community, often dissenting opinion to the entertainment industry’s public relations campaign has gained traction and credence, and indeed has tempered the mainstream media’s rush to republish press releases.
The latest media canon from the RIAA’s CEO Mitch Bainwol provides the latest example. The USAToday
published an article Monday quoting Mr. Bainwol as stating that online piracy has been “contained.”
"The problem has not been eliminated," says association CEO Mitch Bainwol. "But we believe digital downloads have emerged into a growing, thriving business, and file-trading is flat."
Perhaps several years back, such an assertion would have been accepted more easily. However the substantial logistical infrastructure that accommodates P2P and file-sharing, such as various forums, blogs, news sites, etc., is of such magnitude that alternative viewpoints are no longer ignored. Reflecting this change in mass media, virtually every publication that published an article on Mr. Bainwol’s decree was met with varying degrees of skepticism, including some of outright ridicule.
It’s possible the RIAA had little choice but to make a public statement in support of their lawsuit and anti-piracy campaign. Their efforts recently received a black eye from two unexpected sources – Sony America vice president of Digital Media Technology Strategy, Albhy Galuten and ex-RIAA chairperson Hilary Rosen.
Albhy Galuten’s take on the online copyright conflict is the polar opposite
of Mr. Bainwols, stating the music industry is not "winning the battle against pirating.” The statement was made last Wednesday at the Digital Media Summit in Los Angeles.
It didn’t help the RIAA’s case either when ex-chairwoman Hilary Rosen criticized the idea of suing alleged P2P pirates, and the entire concept of DRM (Digital Rights Management.) In an article published on the liberal blog site The Huffington Post, Mrs. Rosen shared her skepticism of the RIAA’s current legal strategy.
“But for the record, I do share a concern that the lawsuits have outlived most of their usefulness and that the record companies need to work harder to implement a strategy that legitimizes more p2p sites and expands the download and subscription pool by working harder with the tech community to get devices and music services to work better together. That is how their business will expand most quickly. The iPod is still too small a part of the overall potential of the market and its proprietary DRM just bugs me. Speaking of DRM, it is time to rethink that strategy as well.”
The latest statistics from P2P tracking firm Big Champagne further diminishes the RIAA’s contention. According to Big Champagne’s latest figures, the P2P population has continued its overall climb. At 9,735,661 in May 2006, the P2P population is at its second highest, down slightly from its peak of 9,992,298 in March. There was an increase of 138,253 from the month of April however.
The May 2006 statistic represents a population increase of 12.4% over May 2005, or an increase of 1,070,342 individuals.
The most significant aspect of these calculations is they do not represent the entire file-sharing picture – primary that of the BitTorrent community. Because of BitTorrent’s decentralized protocol, it is difficult to obtain an exact number of participants. What is known however is the massive amount of bandwidth this protocol consumes, which greatly outweighs all other P2P networks combined. If we were to only judge BitTorrent on the amount of unique individuals traveling The Pirate Bay, there would be an addition of at least 1 million individuals. Some estimates are much greater, and easily double the number published by Big Champagne.
So has piracy and unauthorized file-sharing been contained? We’ll know for sure if another next round of lawsuits is announced.