Abstract

The growth of the network of client/server computers worldwide via the transfer protocol we all know as The World Wide Web, now abbreviated as WWW, or simply the Internet has become spectacular in the last 20 years.Since its inception in 1994, World Wide Web often referred to as the Web has exploded in capacity and scope.With this growth much that was unimaginable has become commonplace.Users of the Web now have the ability to acquire virtually all forms of visual and sound media from movies to sound recordings in various electronic formats.The growth of the Web and its services are a new socio-economic phenomenon. What is not new is every human economic activity being plagued by criminal enterprising.This truism applies to the Web.What I will examine in this short article is the extent of piracy of multimedia material on the Web.Moreover, we will try to answer the question: Can Web piracy be controlled?

The Web Piracy Problem

Web piracy of multimedia materials has become an intransigent problem for recording companies, film studios, artists and all associated industries to this sector of the world economy.In this article I will focus on two areas of this industry: music and film.I will try to answer two questions.What is the extent of worldwide theft of these media?And second, can this thievery be controlled or prevented?

These seemingly simple questions are actually quite difficult to frame and answer.For instance, many recording companies now have websites where for a fee you can download your favorite artistís latest work and play it on MP3 players.But, you can also copy these downloaded files and distribute them, if youíre knowledgeable.Does that constitute theft?Many would answer yes, others would say no.So, I must frame precisely what Iím trying to investigate.To that end, my focus will be on materials that are downloaded and used without the express consent of the originator (artist) and distributor (film or recording company).This restriction ensures that I am only examining truly pirated materials from the Web.Finally, though it is tempting I will not moralize about this issue.That is, I am not going express an opinion on whether internet piracy is right or wrong.I will consider its scope and the shady area of defining what is and what is not piracy, but not the moral implications.

What is Web Piracy?

Web Piracy is defined as the willful acquirement of intellectual property protected by copyright law (What is Internet Piracy, 2009, para 1).It covers such things as downloading software programs, music files, e-books, DVD movies, and even streaming and recording webcasts.What most computer users donít realize when they purchase software is that the ownership rights to that software remains with the developers.That is to say, the hard copy of a CD you purchase is not yours.The content and the artifact itself still belong to the maker.You are given a license to install it on your computer (several computers depending on the licensing agreement) but you donít own it. (Bocij, 2006, p 146).In light of this definition, software developers and their affiliates, software firms seek to prevent unauthorized copying of their products.Therein is the genesis of the piracy problem.No matter how much they try preventing unauthorized copying of these products, it is near impossible to stop it.In the early days of CD and DVD hardware developers would place errors on the disc.The software when installed properly would check for these errors and fix the section.If it was copied, the bad sector of the disc would be removed and the program would cease to operate.Thus, the program would only run if it finds the damaged section of the disc.Most DVD and CD writers canít copy damaged data to disc.(Bocij, 2006 p 142)An earlier method was to use a product key which was usually a long hexadecimal number that couldnít be guessed by mathematical algorithmic routines to prevent the installation of software.This method is still used today, though not pervasively as in early 1990s.Product keys were embedded in the CDs or encrypted on the Net.Only when a user was able to match the product key request by the software would the program properly install on a computer.Hackers were soon able to defeat this methodology by discovering where products keys were held by software developers (on their servers) and distributing them via file-sharing networks.Paul Bocij in his book The Dark Side of Internet, gives us a description of this process:

ďWeb sites providing links to pirated software, music and movies also began to appear.Some sites specialized in supplying software fixes, called cracks, that could be used to defeat the copy protection routines used in various programs.This allowed people to download a legitimate trial version of a program, then use a crack to make it behave like the full, unrestricted version.Other sites specialized in supplying keygens, small programs that could be used to generate fake registration codes for a variety of programsĒ. (Bocij, 2006, p 143).

Since the days of floppy discs, copying the media from which a work of creative content has been made was always prey to piracy.The struggle between software producers and their pesky interlopers is an endless war.No sooner do the software producers come up with a defense, than the thieves find a way to circumvent it.The stage was set at the inception of the computer era for copying and redistributing material in an electronic format long before the dawn of the Web.As the technology advanced and the devices and infrastructure improved the inherent problem only worsened.Those whom wanted to possess materials without paying for them found ways to copy and redistribute them through the growing methods of this new technology.The advance of the technology only made the theft of materials made with the appliances of that technology easier.As an example of this process we can examine the case of a file-sharing program called Napster.Napster was a peer-to-peer file (here after called P2P) sharing program that was the brainchild of a college student, Shawn Fenning at Northeastern University in Boston (ďShawn Fanning and Napster,Ē 2000, Para I).He figured out a way to allow to any two computers to connect over the Internet and share files on their respective machines without the need for a central server machine to control this sharing.This is what P2P means.Any computers sharing a connection via the Internet can link together and exchange files on their machines.Napster simply acted as a central server to allow any computer anywhere in the world to share files on their respective machines.Fanningís encoding algorithm was a stroke of genius and beyond the scope this article, but suffice it to say, what Shawn Fanning did put Net theft on the map.Now anybody whom had downloaded a file from the Net could send it to anybody else on the Napster P2P network for free!Be that as it may, corporate organizations were well aware of what Fanning did.They moved quickly to stop Napster.In July 2001, Napster was shut down after a legal battle.(King 2000, para 1)

Recent Methods of Web Piracy

Piracy of movies is accomplished by hackers with small camcorders whom visit theaters, surreptitiously record a movie, then transfer the DVD made to their computers, edit and upload it to P2P site.Music piracy likewise is done by recording streaming audio from a site, then burning a CD of the recording using CD burning software and subsequently uploading the files to P2P site.Alternatively, these media can be sold on the street to any passerby or by posting messages to newsgroups that these materials are for sale.

We should not ignore the glaring fact that avaricious manufacturers have actually helped the growth of Web piracy.When the CD ROMs and later CD writers made its debut in the early 90ís, a cottage industry grew up around making blank compact discs.This development actually spurred the potential for computer users to download and copy pirated media.Though most CD makers would deny they have any part in Web piracy, itís clear they do.The cheap production of a medium for copying copyrighted materials facilitates such activity, i.e. acquirement of intellectual property, copying and distributing it.Now, the stage was set.All facets of Web piracy were in place by the beginning of the 21st century.There is a network that allows users to exchange all forms of digitized media, a way to copy said media and the network itself allows this illegally copied media to be redistributed to all users of this network.Our next question is evident.How much of this kind of thing occurs?

 

The Growth of Web Piracy

The answer to the previous questions is a word: immense!Letís try to get a picture of how much and more importantly if itís accelerating.The first question has ample statistical data available to show it's occurring.One estimate from 2004 is 1/3 of all music and film DVDs sold worldwide are pirated copies of legal media.Pirated sales of music and video for the year 2007 were at an all time high of $8.0 billion in the U.S. (Peitz M. & Waelbroeck 2004, P 72).Itís not the monetary size of web piracy that is most disturbing to multimedia producers; itís the percentage growth of this piracy.One measure that analysts use to calculate the growth of pirated multimedia is called the piracy rate.This figure is the ratio of illegal media to legal copies.It is thus a percentage measure the size of this market.For example if 1 out of every 2 CDs or DVDs sold in a country is a pirated copy of these media, then this country has a piracy rate of 50%.Below is a table showing this metric for some industrialized countries in 2004.(Bocij, 2006, p 145)In the conclusions section we will show an expanded list of nations and their piracy rates and what that implies.

 

Country

Piracy Rate

Vietnam

92%

Ukraine

91%

China

90%

As you can imagine from the table above the countries with the highest piracy rates contribute the most to the theft of multimedia.China and Russia have become the principal sources for the worldwide distribution of pirated CDs and DVDs the study that produced the above table was done (Palmer, 2009 para 1).Worst, these figures donít take into account the theft that occurs on the Internet via file-sharing sites or illegal sites that specialize in ripping, i.e. creating file copies of music and video multimedia and uploading them for downloads.The ironic conclusion any researcher is forced to make about Internet piracy is we need a worldwide police state to control it; this is a debate for another article.

 

Is Web Piracy Preventable?

Conclusions

This is the final question we must ask and try to answer: Can Web Piracy be controlled or even stopped?The answer I have found is it is very unlikely.If we look at the statistics Iíve shown above and consider the fact that the technology itself is changing so rapidly, it is improbable that theft of multimedia intellectual property can ever be prevented.Moreover, not only will it not be prevented or controlled it is will undoubtedly increase, as we shall see in the analysis below.

The technology has changed and the ability to steal copyrighted materials has become even easier.Greater than this fact is the emergence of globalism.Globalism is the worldwide interconnection of economies.In reference to computer networks, Globalism in the cybernetic mode is the worldwide connection of computer networks and how they facilitate our economic activities in the areas of trade, intellectual knowledge exchange, cultural sharing, scientific cooperation, etc.With this idea in mind, if the U.S. government shuts down a server hosting P2P users in the U.S., it canít do it in China, or Russia, or Morocco.This is true even in countries that have strong governmental control of its citizens.Countries like Cuba, Iran, North Korea and others have what we here in the West would consider totalitarian regimes.Yet, even in these countries no apparatus is in place to stop individuals in numerous places from copying multimedia.The policing agencies in these countries canít control a technology that outstrips them.To illustrate the point, here is a good example.If I want to record and copy a song I like from the internet without being detected and prosecuted this would be a simple task.I could connect to a radio broadcast via the internet that streams my favorite music, and use a microphone and speakers to record it. I could save the recording as an MP3 file, then burn a CD in minutes on my machine from anywhere in the world.Even better, I could use a wireless laptop computer and even if I were being tracked, I could do my ripping while traveling from place to place.If I can do this, then millions upon millions of others can too.The obvious conclusion is this kind of theft is impossible to prevent.It is a quantum leap beyond the VHS recordings we made in the 20th century.

There is a counter argument to this stance.It proposes that all computers manufactured can have tracking technology embedded in them.This argument is weak and misdirected.It ignores the fact that computer users donít have to rely on manufacturers to make a computer. (ďBuild Your Own PC,Ē 2009, para I).

One glaring fact is clear concerning Web piracy: it will continue to grow.This growth is occurring in 3rd World developing countries. Its trend is increasing.

Iíve calculated the average piracy rates in the last column for high and low piracy rate nations in two tables below:

Highest Piracy Rate Countries

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

Average per Year

Armenia

93%

95%

95%

94%

Bangladesh

92%

92%

Azerbaijan

92%

94%

94%

93%

Moldova

92%

94%

96%

94%

Zimbabwe

91%

91%

90%

90%

87%

90%

Sri Lanka

90%

90%

Yemen

89%

89%

Libya

88%

88%

Venezuela

87%

86%

82%

79%

72%

81%

Vietnam

85%

88%

90%

92%

92%

89%

Iraq

85%

85%

Indonesia

84%

85%

87%

87%

88%

86%

Pakistan

84%

86%

86%

82%

83%

84%

Algeria

84%

84%

83%

83%

84%

84%

Cameroon

84%

84%

84%

84%

81%

83%

Montenegro

83%

82%

83%

83%

83%

Ukraine

83%

84%

85%

91%

91%

87%

China

82%

82%

86%

90%

92%

86%

Bolivia

82%

82%

83%

80%

78%

81%

Paraguay

82%

82%

83%

83%

83%

83%

Botswana

82%

81%

82%

84%

81%

82%

Nigeria

82%

82%

82%

84%

84%

83%

Zambia

82%

82%

83%

84%

81%

82%

El Salvador

81%

82%

81%

80%

79%

81%

Ivory Coast

81%

82%

82%

84%

81%

82%

Kenya

81%

80%

81%

83%

80%

81%

Source: Fifth Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study, May 2008

 


Lowest Piracy Rate Countries

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

Average per Year

United States

20%

21%

21%

21%

22%

21%

Luxembourg

21%

21%

New Zealand

22%

22%

23%

23%

23%

23%

Japan

23%

25%

28%

28%

29%

27%

Austria

25%

26%

26%

25%

27%

26%

Belgium

25%

27%

28%

29%

29%

28%

Denmark

25%

25%

27%

27%

26%

26%

Finland

25%

27%

26%

29%

31%

28%

Sweden

25%

26%

27%

26%

27%

26%

Switzerland

25%

26%

27%

28%

31%

27%

United Kingdom

26%

27%

27%

27%

29%

27%

Germany

27%

28%

27%

29%

30%

28%

Australia

28%

29%

31%

32%

31%

30%

Netherlands

28%

29%

30%

30%

33%

30%

Norway

29%

29%

30%

31%

32%

30%

Israel

32%

32%

32%

33%

35%

33%

Canada

33%

34%

33%

36%

35%

34%

South Africa

34%

35%

36%

37%

36%

36%

Ireland

34%

36%

37%

38%

41%

37%

UAE

35%

35%

34%

34%

34%

34%

Singapore

37%

39%

40%

42%

43%

40%

Czech Republic

39%

39%

40%

41%

40%

40%

Taiwan

40%

41%

43%

43%

43%

42%

Reunion

40%

40%

40%

40%

39%

40%

Hungary

42%

41%

42%

44%

42%

42%

France

42%

45%

47%

45%

45%

45%

Source: Fifth Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study, May 2008

 

If we take these averages for both high and low piracy rate countries and compare them, we will find that piracy rates are increasing in all nations. Look at the low piracy rate countries below.

Similarly, we can see the same thing for high piracy rate countries:

These charts display a graphic depiction of my conclusion.Web piracy is increasing in all countries worldwide.Though, the trend may be lower in technologically advanced nations than developing ones, the average rate is increasing.This leads to the most dramatic conclusion of this study: Web piracy will become prevalent worldwide, unless there is a new technology that supersedes the internet.It is unpreventable, persistent and inexorable in its nature.

 

My last chart illustrates this point with overwhelming clarity.Based on the BSA study, Iíve found that the trend of Web piracy for all 25 countries in the study is converging.This means that not only is Web piracy an increasing trend, it will reach equilibrium for all nations in the future.Look at the chart below:

 

While the percentage differences are large, the trend is converging.This chart underlines this dire conclusion.I would like to have developed a predictive model of just when this saturation point would be reached, but time constraints militated against my doing this.But, the trend convergence is clear.That is, the two plot lines will intersect at some point in the future.This statement means that the piracy rate in all countries will be extremely high!

As a final word, please note these charts are only measuring piracy of hardware media, not virtual multimedia theft in the form of P2P site downloads and streaming audio-video on a personal computer while recording it, then subsequently copying the recording onto CDs.Thefts of these types are largely uncounted.My fellow Net compatriots, not only is Web Piracy here to stay, it is uncontrollable.


 

References

 

Bocij, P. (2006) The Dark Side Of The Internet. Westport: Praeger Publishers

 

Torr, J. (2004, August, 9) Introduction. At Issue: Internet Piracy. Enotes. 9 article 54083. Retrieved November 17, 2009 http://www.enotes.com/

 

Lamy, J. (2005, July, 13) RIAAíS Annual Commercial Piracy Report Shows Trafficking in Pirated Music Increasingly Sophisticated, Closer Ties to Criminal Syndicates. Top40-chart.com. article 16184. Retrieved November 17, 2009 http//top40-charts.com/

 

The Recording Industry 2005 Commercial Piracy Report (2005). www.ifpi.org. Retrieved November 17, 2009. From http://www.ifpi.org/site-content/library/piracy2005.pdf.

 

Annual BSA State Piracy Report. (2007). www.bsa.org. Retrieved November 18, 2009. From http://www.bsa.org/country/Research%20and%20Statistics/~/media/5D7EB7E9C6CF4EDD9CBBD5CAAD3F2CC6.ashx. (data on domestic multimedia piracy in the US by state)

 

Schell B & Martin C. (2006) Webster's new World Hacker Dictionary. Indianapolis: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

What is Internet Piracy? (2009)Wise Geek.com Retrieved November 23, 2009 http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-internet-piracy.htm

 

Peitz M. & Waelbroeck P (2004) The Effect of Internet Piracy on Music Sales: Cross Section Evidence [Electronic Version]. National Review of Economic Research Copyright Issues, Vol 1(2), p 71-79

 

Interview Napster Founder Shawn Fanning. (2000) University Wire. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-33906234.html

 

King, B (2000, July 27) Napsterís File-Trading No More, Wired. Retrieved December 7, 2009 from http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2000/07/37558

 

Palmer, D (2009, April 12) Canada among the top copyright pirates: USTR, Reuters Canada. Retrieved December 7, 2009 from http://ca.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idCATRE53T5HG20090430 Donít be shocked by the title, itís from the Canadian Reuters news service so they are focusing on their country. Canada is still nowhere near as piracy prone as China.

 

Build Your Own PC (2009) http://www.pcmech.com/byopc. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from http://www.pcmech.com/byopc/

 

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