Dealing with Piracy on the Internet

The Internet has presented the world with a truly remarkable system of networked networks, over which pretty much any content that can be digitally packaged can be shared, freely and faster than any other distribution method.

Audio, video, software and text documents are all ideally suited to Internet distribution and with a fast broadband connection where they can be uploaded or downloaded without real fuss or significant delay. We know that end-users love the freedom of choice that the Internet can provide them with and that content rights holders are excited about the possibility to put their content directly into the hands of end-users.

One problem is that not every content rights holder has defined their online strategy, and those that have may not have achieved the price / service balance that end users are happy with. End-users tend to be basically honest folks in the majority, but do have a tendency towards taking the path of least resistance.

Prohibitive Digital Rights Management that restrict the way that the content can be used, inflated prices or a clunky shopping experience may all contribute towards an end-user choosing not to obtain and manage their digital content through legitimate channels. Many users of file sharing platforms or peer-to-peer networking services find that they can access content without restriction or cost and it is this simplicity rather than a wish to break the law that drives them toward illegally sharing content.

So overall there are many reasons why folks may choose to participate in illegal distribution of copyrighted materials. Not every filesharer is commercially motivated, but every instance of illegal filesharing has a commercial impact upon the rights holder.

For an ISP there is a balance to achieve between allowing end-users to enjoy freedom and privacy (in compliance with any relevant legislation) and taking steps to ensure that they are not participating in illegal filesharing activities.

If an ISP refuses to acknowledge illegal activity on its network then there is a serious risk that they could be accused of negligence and suffer from action brought against them, incurring financial penalties and damage to their reputation. On the other hand, if the ISP is restrictive in their policies and punitive in their handling of end-users that are discovered to be engaged in filesharing activities then they will potentially also suffer commercial damage through customer churn and reputation issues.

What is needed is a fair deal for both the content rights holder and the end-user. If the path of least resistance became the legal channel for distribution then we would see a natural decline in piracy. The ISP cannot act passively; illegal filesharing through peer-to-peer (for example) is difficult to monetize and consumes valuable network bandwidth, so the pirate is no friend of the ISP by any means. Similarly the ISP does not wish to become the henchman of the content rights holder and to act against their end-users as this will damage the relationships between service providers and their customers.

The conclusion is therefore that piracy is a damaging habit, and one that the Internet cannot infinitely support. The long term solution is for ISPs and content rights holders to work together to find a business model and technical solution that provides the path of least resistance in a commercially sustainable framework that rewards content originators and end-users alike.


Ian Cleary is the Global Product Manager for TeliaSonera International Carrier.


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