American companies are teaming up to take on the pirates, and the rhetoric from intellectual property rights holders at the networks and studios is getting dire.
In a document filed with the FCC on the issue of network neutrality on Friday, NBC Universal argued that approximately 60 percent of all internet traffic was unauthorized peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted material. The statement went on to equivocate the traffic in unlicensed material with the drug trade and child pornography. And that’s on the heels of suggesting that more attention should be paid to protecting movie grosses than banks.
Earlier in the week, at a press conference in Washington, D.C. NBC Universal general counsel Rick Cotton claimed that copyright infringement is costing the economy of the United States “hundreds of billions of dollars a year,” more than all other property crimes combined, and that law enforcement is currently “misaligned.” A report from IP rights advocacy group Policy Innovation pegged the number at only about $20 billion last September.
He was speaking on behalf of the new “Campaign to Protect America,” an industry lobby group for the MPAA and other rightsholders with the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. AT&T is listening, and has agreed with the MPAA to basically tap the Internet in order to stop piracy.
Cory Doctorow argued in an Information Week column that bits are only ever going to get easier to copy and that structuring our entire economy on information is ultimately unsustainable. Making a million iPhones requires factories and raw materials, but making a million copies of Shrek 3 no longer does.
In other words, we’re ultimately creating advertising for products we don’t even make, and are complaining when the people who make the products cheaply are unwilling to pay for the advertising. Congress and the FCC can continue trying to regulate this fundamental problem away by listening to the networks and studios, but no law or treaty can or will stop the practice of freely trading digital information, and no technological solution has yet worked, either.