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The Internet War Against Piracy Continues

Although SOPA and PIPA were withdrawn from Congress last month, it seems that online freedom may still face immense danger in the savage war against piracy.
By Christopher Kevin Au
February 16, 2012
By Christopher Kevin Au
February 16, 2012

Although SOPA and PIPA were withdrawn from Congress last month, it seems that online freedom may still face immense danger in the savage war against piracy.

Recently we saw the unravelling of a bizzare set of events in the Megaupload saga, which included the shutting down of the website and the FBI's dramatic arrest and indictment of founder, Kim Schmitz. Schmitz and fellow Megaupload employees were arrested on piracy charges, as the website is said to have accounted for a staggering $500 million of losses in unauthorised content. Furthermore, it is said that the website also generated $175 million through advertising and other means.

With unprecedented accessibility to media and information online, it seems almost all of us are guilty of some form of piracy, which has become normalised and largely seen as a victimless crime. Stemming from a traditional "us vs. them" attitude against corporations and a genuine love of free things, most of us don't think twice about downloading the latest episodes of Mad Men, or hopping over to Thailand to grab a few dodgy seasons of Sex and the City for the missus. Such an attitude is summarised beautifully in a Facebook response to the anti-piracy advertisements equating downloading media to physical theft: I wouldn't steal a car, but I'd download one if I could.

With so much stuff out there it's hard to know what belongs to whom, to what extent we're breaking the law and who we are actually hurting when we download media. Indeed, nothing proves this more than the case of aggressive anti-piracy group BREIN, who were accused of using Melchior Rietveldt's song without permission in an anti-piracy advertisement. Besides being a most humorous and delicious slice of irony, this is also evidence of how contractual agreements for media must now be drafted with greater intricacy and detail to keep up with technology's rapid evolution.

The effects of the Megaupload shutdown have scared similar websites into re-examining their services, and FileSonic, Turbobit and FileServe have largely disabled their sharing capabilities. In retaliation to the shutdown, hacktivist group Anonymous set their omnipresent eyes on the high-traffic websites of enemies in high places, and the online presence of CBS, Universal Music and the U.S. Department of Justice was temporarily inaccessible.

The group has promised further attacks, and we can't help but be a little nervous as the endless list of targets is examined. A call-to-arms video for a blackout on Facebook on January 28 appeared, but its credibility was called into question and the date passed without disturbance. Thank God we were still able to check-in at our favourite restaurants and lurk our friends' photos in comfort. A relief to say the least. Nevertheless, the mere possibility of somebody taking down Facebook and destroying my treasured memories makes me extremely anxious and a little nauseous.

If anything, such attacks have proven how individuals can impact others greatly from the comfort of their own bedrooms and mysterious underground hacker-dungeons. With the music and film industries seeking desperately to guard the gates to their traditional pools of revenue, there looks to be no end to the internet war against piracy. If anything, such battles will become more frequent and dispersed, and fought with greater speed and complexity.

Published on February 16, 2012 by Christopher Kevin Au

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