This morning while I was getting breakfast for my siblings at Ghim Moh Market, I caught sight of two men setting up their make-shift stall selling pirated movie DVDs. While piracy is a big no-no with the government in Singapore, I was more intrigued by how popular these physical pirates still are with the local folks. After all, if you figure out the distribution network of how digital media is pirated, for them it’s literally just the cost of duplicating DVDs (and taking the risk of being out in the public).
As many of you are aware of, most of these media come off peer-to-peer networks such as Bittorrent sites. You can find almost anything through those bittorrent search engines, and there are many to choose from. If that fails you, look up the chain and you’d see that most piracy (warez) groups actually use newsgroup (NNTP) servers since they can be private, come with dedicated bandwidth (fast!) and possibly afford more control than bittorrent servers.
If the likes of the MPAA, RIAA and IFPI are to be believed, file-sharing is causing worldwide havok, costing billions of dollars and creating unemployment. It’s true that some people are feeling the P2P effect; they’re called ‘physical pirates’ and one of them says that file-sharing has ruined his business.
Now if two wrongs don’t make a right, at least one wrong isn’t making money off piracy, but rather distributing it as a matter of philosophy (e.g. sense of efficacy, reputation, etc). The gift economy seen in this form of p2p piracy is really a side-effect of internal motivations as mentioned above.
Given that physical pirates are closing and “free” forms of piracy takes over, can we continue status quo with existing copyright laws? Although piracy exists, can we take comfort knowing that at least money isn’t going into some pirate’s hands?