Long Live Piracy…



A little dramatic, eh! Well, this is certainly not the war cry of a lone
ranger, read me, but of over 255 mn people across the globe. And that number
might be an underestimation. If I look at the downloads of various peer to peer
programs like Kazaa, Morpheus and iMesh from just one site, download.com, the
total number of downloads add up to over 255 mn. While there may certainly be
huge overlaps-as one person downloads multiple programs-yet the numbers are
startling. And I am not even talking about another program-BitTorrent-which
is devouring over a third of the global internet bandwidth, making the war cry
heard even louder. What is interesting about BitTorrent is the way it works.
People using BitTorrent will download a small file called a "torrent"
onto their computer. And when they open the file the program searches for other
users that have the same torrent. BitTorrent’s software breaks the original
digital file into fragments, then those fragments are shared between all of the
users that have downloaded the "torrent." Then the software stitches
together those fragments into a single file that users can view on their PC.
This has become a very efficient system for large files, especially software and
movies, much to the ire of Hollywood and software companies like Microsoft.

The big question is: Can it be stopped? Can we say ‘Down with Piracy’?
Globally, software companies like Microsoft and Adobe, and other local bodies,
have been doing their bit to stop software piracy. For instance, last year we
saw the Recording Industry Association of America (representing the record
industry) suing individuals for downloading and sharing MP3s. Then, along with
the Motion Picture Association of America (representing the film industry), the
RIAA put pressure on the US congress which culminated in March 2004 in a US
legislation draft, known as the Pirate Act, which supports cracking down on file
sharers by setting the penalty for copyright infringement at several years in
jail.

Did this help? While it did spread the message that MP3s/movies over p2p
network are illegal, the pirates seem to have simply ignored them and continued
business as usual.

Locally, Microsoft, Nasscom and BSA have been taking the cudgels to whack the
pirates hard. But not to much effect. It seems a few of these have been more for
the media, to try to run a chill up the pirate’s spine. Like the incident
involving the late Dewang Mehta, who took an elephant to Nehru Place, Delhi and
trampled pirated CDs. Great show. Or, in recent times, Microsoft taking action
against some channel players and taking them to court. It is interesting to note
that in one of the cases, the defendant company, Compton Computers, had earlier,
in 2002, given an undertaking to Microsoft that they will not indulge in
software piracy in the future. In 2004, Microsoft found Compton Computers
blatantly violating their 2002 undertaking by indulging in hard disk loading of
pirated Microsoft software. Does this work? Don’t think so. Look at the
numbers released in the second annual Piracy Study-05 by BSA and IDC. The piracy
rate has increased by a percentage to 74% in 2004. And we are not even talking
about music piracy. DQ had estimated a loss by the music industry to the tune of
over Rs 10,000 cr in 2002. Interestingly, the Indian equivalent of RIAA is yet
to take this up in a big way.

While I would love to say ‘Down with Piracy’ and ‘Kill the Buccaneers’,
I realize that it is futile.

The dark force is strong. We need new thinking on the same-educating the
users, bringing down prices of products/songs/videos and much more. Easier said
than done and might take a long time to happen. Till such time, I am going to
live with piracy and keep hearing the mocking howl of ‘Long Live Piracy’.

Yograj Varma,
Associate Editor

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