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UK ISPs ordered to block The Pirate Bay
UK ISPs ordered to block The Pirate Bay
April 30, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

April 30, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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The UK's High Court has ordered local internet service providers to block popular filesharing site The Pirate Bay, which would prevent users in the country from accessing the piracy hub.

While there are countless filesharing websites on the internet, The Pirate Bay is one of the most visible. Since 2003, the Swedish site has hosted BitTorrent files that enable users to share and download pirated video games, among other digital media.

BitTorrent files were to blame for nearly 4 million unauthorized downloads of Electronic Arts and Crytek's Crysis 2 last year -- many of which occurred a month before the game even shipped. Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and EA's Battlefield 3 were both downloaded around 3.5 million times each from BitTorrent files hosted on The Pirate Bay and similar sites in 2011.

Now users in Britain will have one less site to download BitTorrent files from, as local ISPs are required to block The Pirate Bay in the next few weeks, the BBC reports. Local record companies previously attempted to convince ISPs to voluntarily block the site last year, but those providers claimed they couldn't do so without a court order.

The Pirate Party UK, a political party supporting copyright reforms, commented that this move could set a dangerous precedent. "Unfortunately, the move to order blocking on The Pirate Bay comes as no surprise," said party leader Loz Kaye. "The truth is that we are on a slippery slope towards internet censorship here in the United Kingdom."

ISPs in other countries have blocked The Pirate Bay in the past after orders from their respective courts or governments, including Malaysia, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, and others. The founders of the site were even fined millions and sentenced to serve a year in prison each in Sweden several years ago, but that did not cease The Pirate Bay's operations.


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Comments


AJ S
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In comes the internet blacklist. Great idea... there is always a way around whether it be by DNS or through a Proxy. Not to mention encryption so the ISPs can't see anything. What's next will I get arrested if I happen to reach the pirate bay?

Alan Rimkeit
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Or TOR. But hey, only the non-technically inclined people will not be able to get to the Pirate Bay. Anyone who is savvy enough to be part of the torrenting scene will be able to get by the firewall with little to no issues at all. If the Chinese government can't stop people from getting around the Great Firewall of China then the UK has absolutely no hope at all.

k s
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And the world takes another step toward total despotism. This is not the way to deal with illegal file sharing.

Chris OKeefe
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Internet censorship wasn't a good idea in China and it's not a good idea in Britain. I understand this is an enormous conundrum, taking place in a medium where free speech can mingle seamlessly with piracy, but I tend to think that people should not be treated as though they have the intent to commit a crime before they've committed that crime.

Internet censorship is a slippery slope, and once the government gets precedent for it, you're always one step away from the government censoring any material they find objectionable. And even if you think that this censorship is warranted, the next time it happens you might not agree so readily.

As long as you grant authority the power to ban specific websites then you are relying on them to show restraint and good judgment. It is generally a bad idea to allow governments to have the kind of power where the people need to trust them not to abuse their power to limit basic freedoms. It is better to not allow them to have that kind of power to begin with.

Joe McIntosh
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I once saw a kid shoplift a CD by hiding it in his overly baggy pants. We should ban baggy pants, right?

Jonathan Murphy
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I've used bit torrent to download stuff like ocremix.org soundtracks, upload speed runs, and even back up stuff I legally own. I admit I haven't used anything torrent related outside of ocremix. But I'm working on a Resident Evil speed run.

It's ridiculous that they punish the small guy when giant companies are openly violating copyright laws to boost views on their websites. I'm looking at you CNet. Start with the top and work your way down.

Mikhail Mukin
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If actual store was selling stolen goods and owners knew about it, accepted it and did nothing to prevent it (or report it) - I assume the owners would be prosecuted and the store would be shut down (at least I hope - it makes sense?). I don't understand why honest people (assuming they are not thiefs themselevs) would protect such owners. The pirate bay, megaupload and a lot of other similar sites - they are basically the same as stolen goods stores.

If US and UK governents can not shut them down cause they use HW located in other countries and internatianal law is not working yet - the next best thing is to limit access to it. If real store owners fled from the coutry - the government has the right to freeze their assets, rewoke their visas/licenses etc - whatever is the next best thing when actual prosecution is not yet possible.

And yes, if a store was also selling non stolen goods - it could hurt some honest sellers (short term) - but there are enough stores now to choose...

The arguent that "you can access it via proxy anyway" is also not valid - as in real life, you can always buy stolen things on a black market - the purpose is to make it more difficult for regular people.

Same with drugs - we can not go to Asia and South America and destory all the fields and labs and arrest owners... But we can (and should) try to limit distribution channels - at least within "civilized world" and make access as hard as possible.

We, game developers, get our paychecks because anti-piracy works at least in some form - and at least in US/West Europe/Japan. Mostly thanks to HW protection build into consoles... Hopefully, next gen and future tech (and law) will make it more robust, not less.

Tyler Martin
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"The arguent that "you can access it via proxy anyway" is also not valid - as in real life, you can always buy stolen things on a black market - the purpose is to make it more difficult for regular people."

The argument that you can access it via proxy isn't even necessary in this case. If the goal is to make pirated media harder for regular people to access then blocking access to one torrent site is like shutting down one bar or liquor store to cut off access to alcohol. That goal also assumes that piracy is hard for regular people when the reality is that by cracking the game and removing DRM, pirates often make it easier for them than the company who made it. When the only barrier to entry for playing a pirated copy is waiting a few days for it to be cracked and finding a clean torrent, there might as well be no barrier to entry at all for piracy.

"We, game developers, get our paychecks because anti-piracy works at least in some form - and at least in US/West Europe/Japan. Mostly thanks to HW protection build into consoles... Hopefully, next gen and future tech (and law) will make it more robust, not less."

No, game developers get pay cheques because they make games people enjoy and are willing to pay for. anti-piracy measures can't really be credited for more sales when no form of DRM is unbeatable, and the challenge they put in place is for the people cracking them (challenges which last no more than a few weeks at most), and not for the average person downloading the final cracked copy. And of course, your statement operates on the assumption that every downloaded copy is a lost sale which isn't true.

Here's the honest truth: piracy is not going to go away. No matter how much government tries to legislate it, courts try to cut down on access and companies add increasingly complex and draconian DRM, there will still be pirates, they will still crack DRM and host torrents, and they will always do it faster than large bureaucratic organizations can react. The only way to compete is to realize that it is a competition. You need to offer a product or service that is at least as good as what the pirates can offer.

Prohibition isn't going to work any better with piracy than it did with alcohol or drugs. If anything, it will be even less effective here since it's so much easier for people to crack and transmit pirated software than to run illegal stills or produce and smuggle illegal drugs.

E Zachary Knight
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"If actual store was selling stolen goods and owners knew about it, accepted it and did nothing to prevent it (or report it) - I assume the owners would be prosecuted and the store would be shut down (at least I hope - it makes sense?). I don't understand why honest people (assuming they are not thiefs themselevs) would protect such owners. The pirate bay, megaupload and a lot of other similar sites - they are basically the same as stolen goods stores. "

What makes you, the UK/US government or the UK/US music/movie industry the arbiter of moral distribution channels? That is a serious question. Why should the UK government tell creators and artists that the distribution channels the WANT to use and CHOOSE to use are not valid? Why should their choices be limited to only those distribution services that the music and movie industries approve of?

You do realize that if the music and movie industries had their way we would not have the VCR, the DVD, the CD, the MP3, Youtube, Veoh, Spotify, Grooveshark, Torrents, etc? They lash out at any technology that would actually benefit them. They do it because these new technologies challenge the stats quo, not because of some real risk of piracy. That is only the excuse they give for not wanting to adapt to changes in the market place.

James Coote
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This is a case of one specific industry lobbying the UK government and winning. The music industry is still trying to use legal means to turn back to a time before the internet

Secondly, the legal precedent this sets is that a big commercial organisation can request website blocking (where before, it was just the police requesting child porn and similar sites to be blocked). It also means that ISP's become enforcers of the law

Eric Feliu
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Yes a precedent has been set. If you call your site "ThePirateBay" and > 50% of your traffic is illegal software distribution expect your site to have legal action taken against you. I think this is perfectly acceptable. If you used a site called "ThePirateBay" for sharing files legally and making money that is your mistake. You should not go into business with a site that has a shady reputation.

E Zachary Knight
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I am going to repost my comments to Mikhail here for you:

What makes you, the UK/US government or the UK/US music/movie industry the arbiter of moral distribution channels? That is a serious question. Why should the UK government tell creators and artists that the distribution channels the WANT to use and CHOOSE to use are not valid? Why should their choices be limited to only those distribution services that the music and movie industries approve of?

You do realize that if the music and movie industries had their way we would not have the VCR, the DVD, the CD, the MP3, Youtube, Veoh, Spotify, Grooveshark, Torrents, etc? They lash out at any technology that would actually benefit them. They do it because these new technologies challenge the stats quo, not because of some real risk of piracy. That is only the excuse they give for not wanting to adapt to changes in the market place.

Eric Feliu
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My only point is if copyrighted material is being shared illegally on your distribution channel of choice then you should expect that distribution channel to be blocked/taken down at some point. This has nothing to do with morals. It has everything to do with enforcing laws. I see no problem with enforcing laws. Software/music/movies are all forms of entertainment which are protected by copyright laws.

Joe Wreschnig
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Eric,

What's the legal basis of your "> 50%" standard?

Given that the UK government has not done anything to The Pirate Bay, but only to UK citizens, what manner of "enforcing laws" is going on?

E Zachary Knight
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The idea of "enforcing laws" here is to target the tool and not the users. The tool, the Pirate Bay, is not infringing copyright. The Users of the Pirate Bay are the ones infringing. We cannot and should not block access to tools that have legal uses simply because some people use them illegally.

Like I said, if the idea behind this move was used in previous attacks on tools, we would have no VCR. We would have no Cassette. We would have no CD. We would have no Internet.

Eric Feliu
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Obviously we disagree here. I think it makes sense to block ThePirateBay because it is a site where a majority of people download copyrighted material they have no right to. I think a lot of you are making this to be a bigger issue than it really is because you use this site for other reasons. That's fine, but I don't see how this issue is anything other than trying to enforce copyright laws within the UK.

E Zachary Knight
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Eric,

Do you also think it makes sense to stop the sales of VCR's blank DVDs and CDs and MP3 players? All those can and are used to infringe the copyrights of others. The question is, where do you draw the line? Why are some tools acceptable and some tools not? Who decides what is acceptable? I would think that those using the tools for legal uses have a strong case for keeping those tools around.

Chris OKeefe
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Torrent files aren't illegal.

The Pirate Bay doesn't host any illegal files. It doesn't even host its own files but allows others to post those files. You can post any kind of torrent you like, linking legal or illegal content. It simply hosts torrent files which are not illegal: they do not contain any infringing material.

P2P sharing is a powerful technology that has been demonized by the publishing industry. There's nothing inherently wrong with the technology. It's an excellent way to distribute large amounts of data without concentrating the bandwidth responsibilities on an individual host - that is an incredibly powerful tool. But because the tool has been demonized, many distributors stay away from it for absolutely no reason.

So yes, any site which freely hosts torrent files is going to have a majority of illegal material. When you provide a tool that allows people to share any kind of content at all, the first thing that people will want to share is going to be stuff that is otherwise difficult to obtain. The fact is there's fewer content creators in the world than there are consumers. It only makes sense.But that isn't the point.

Samuel Batista
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You can't block some parts of the internet while allowing access to other parts that provide access to that thing you're trying to block. Determined and informed users will have no problem accessing ThePirateBay, even from UK. You can pay for VPN, or use TOR, both will encrypt your traffic and reroute it to a point of origin of your choosing (at least paid VPN options usually do).

This piece of legislation will only remove the issue from the limelight and force people already using the site to get creative and familiarize themselves with anonymizing software. Anyone who knows how to use google will suddenly find out that they have a lot of power to decide where their traffic goes to, and from, and how to bypass retarded legislations like this.

Joe Wreschnig
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Everyone comparing this to shutting down other black/grey market businesses needs to take a step back and realize what this ruling is. It doesn't shut down The Pirate Bay. It doesn't arrest the owners of The Pirate Bay, and give them a trial, as we normally do to suspected criminals in first-world countries.

Rather, it removes the abilities of UK citizens to do legal things, viz., access The Pirate Bay to download material they have a legal right to download from any other site.

There's no comparison to real-world stores to make here; the situation is practically peculiar to the Internet, and I can only think of a few equivalences within the realm of possibility. For example, could you imagine if the UK banned its citizens from using any part of Amazon.com, because Amazon sells copies of "Peter and Wendy" without paying licensing fees to its owners?

Mikhail Mukin
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If Amazon was selling copies w/o paying licensing on a regular basis, was ignoring requests to settle this, moving it's operations to places where law is hard to enforce and doing it for a long time - absolutely, Amazon should be banned (and prosecuted - when possible).

But Amazon is a legitimate busyness not avoiding those issues - so they have nothing to worry.

Let's not confuse thiefs and anarchists shouting "freedom" but stealing from people like us with honest busunesses.

E Zachary Knight
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And if those licensing fees were structured in such a way as to make any action by Amazon completely unprofitable, they should just roll over and take it?

Joe Wreschnig
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@Mikhail,

"If Amazon was selling copies w/o paying licensing on a regular basis, was ignoring requests to settle this, moving it's operations to places where law is hard to enforce and doing it for a long time - absolutely, Amazon should be banned (and prosecuted - when possible)."

Actually Amazon has no responsibility to pay such licensing - the publishers do. (Similarly, The Pirate Bay site per se distributes only hashes and magnet links, not infringing content - like Amazon in this case, they only act as a knowing conduit for it.) Furthermore in the situation I gave, the publishers *have* ignored requests for licensing, because such requests are not viewed as forceful, since the UK law does not apply in the United States where these products are made and Amazon operates. (Similarly, The Pirate Bay has ignored requests from the UK that have no force in the countries it operates in.)

The *only* difference between the situations is that you claim TPB distributes X% infringing content, and Amazon "only" distributes Y%, and X > Y. But there's no legal basis for blocking people from accessing TBP on this grounds. There is such a basis for shutting down TBP, but they haven't done that. Instead they've attacked UK ISPs and censored the Internet for UK users.

Cordero W
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Psss! Pirate Bay isn't the only torrent site. But don't tell UK that.

Mikhail Mukin
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"What makes you, the UK/US government or the UK/US music/movie industry the arbiter of moral distribution channels? "

The people who voted for the government. Same situation with cops arresting owners of stolen good store - the people gave the government the power to do this. We both understand we are not talking about shutting down a radio station for promoting some different political opinions. We are talking about making things harder for people who knowingly help distribute pirated materials and do nothing about it.

"No, game developers get pay cheques because they make games people enjoy and are willing to pay for. "

If consoles did not have protection and people could freely copy and use games - as easy as buying them - I doubt there would be a console industry.

"Prohibition isn't going to work any better with piracy than it did with alcohol or drugs."
Actually, it works - but you might not be able to see this if you lived in US all the time. In Russia - you can buy alcohol any time and pretty much w/o age restrictions and in many stores. And people do drink more (including teens). Yes, it will not work 100%. Yes, it will not stop people from drinking. But it can play it's role. There were almost no drug use in Soviet Union in schools due to strict policies in place. Now - a lot.

When I lived in Russia years ago - it was much easier for me to buy pirated audio. I can buy it anywhere (do not have to go to a very few specialized shops that were selling licensed once), it was several times cheaper, I could get a cd with all band's albums - did not have to rip off one by one myself. Same with SW. Once my wife went to buy a translator program - she asked for a licensed copy, the seller actually was surprised - why would you need more expensive copy if I can sell you a cracked one - and with all languages, not just one? I had mixed feeling about this cause I worked in the company making this software in the past...

Since we moved to US, I don't think I obtained a single pirated song... It is just much easier for me to do 2 clicks when I like the song on Pandora and buy it from Amazon for 99c. Sure, I can probably download this from a torrent - but the time to set it up, pick one that works, make sure me/wife would not also download some SW with some adware in it... The convenience is just not worth it for me.

A friend came a few days ago asking to download some cartoons she liked. There is a legitimate site selling each episode for 1$. There were other sites offering download "for free". A couple of sites I looked into wanted to install download managers that I did not use before. I just did not want to do this - I would have to go check forums, what managers are legit (I do not install any SW I do not trust) and for me this extra hassle is again not worth a few $. Is is easier to just pay a dollar (+ have a feeling that maybe at least a fraction of that goes to people who made the cartoon).

If police was not stopping people occacionally - people would drink and drive. They still do (and will be) but at least for some the hassle of dealing with DUI consequences prevents this. Same with taxes and so on. It is easier for me to pay them then deal with a possibility of IRS getting back to me with penalties etc...

E Zachary Knight
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"The people who voted for the government. Same situation with cops arresting owners of stolen good store - the people gave the government the power to do this. We both understand we are not talking about shutting down a radio station for promoting some different political opinions. We are talking about making things harder for people who knowingly help distribute pirated materials and do nothing about it."

At the same time, you are making it more difficult for people, artists, content creators who are using the Pirate Bay legally to distribute their content.

Are you ok with the government deciding that in order to become a legitimate distribution channel, you have to get the approval of the government as well as the legacy music and movie industries? That is what is happening here. Are you fine with the idea that in order to get permission to create a new distribution service you have to get permission from those same organizations?

I know I am not. That is not how a free society should function. People should be free to choose how they distribute their art, their content. They should not be told they cannot use a tool because someone else is using the same tool for illegal purposes.

Mikhail Mukin
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@Zachary

"Are you ok with the government deciding that in order to become a legitimate distribution channel, you have to get the approval of the government as well as the legacy music and movie industries? That is what is happening here."

This is absolutely not what is happening. Nobody is asking for government approval. What is being asked for is for a busyness to obey the law - in this case, to respect intellectual property rights. If a distribution channel does a reasonable job of protecting IP and cooperates in this regard - no problem. If it openly violates the low - it should be shut down.

If you are setting up a distribution channel - yes, I would require you to do due dilligence and prevent piracy. There is no problem in posting things on YouTube - but some might be pulled if they violate the rights. It should be something like that.

If a "physcal goods" distribution a channel was, say, distributing packets of sugar but it new that a huge percentage of "sugar" is actually a coke and did nothing about it for a long time - they should be stopped and prosecuted.

It has nothing to do with freedom. Owners of those sites well aware of it. "Freedom" is a cover they use to try to make them look legitimate. Like in most "revolutions" - freedom is just a slogun some groups use to full less educated people into doing bad things and grab the power for them.

E Zachary Knight
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"If a "physcal goods" distribution a channel was, say, distributing packets of sugar but it new that a huge percentage of "sugar" is actually a coke and did nothing about it for a long time - they should be stopped and prosecuted."

The situation with the Pirate Bay is nothing like this. So I don't see why it is relavent.

"This is absolutely not what is happening. Nobody is asking for government approval. What is being asked for is for a busyness to obey the law - in this case, to respect intellectual property rights. If a distribution channel does a reasonable job of protecting IP and cooperates in this regard - no problem. If it openly violates the low - it should be shut down. "

You are right. No one is forcing a distribution channel to get government approval. The government is just reserving the right to disapprove any distribution channel it wants and then punish those distribution channels accordingly. I think that is far worse than forcing distribution channels to seek approval.

As for openly violating laws, I see nothing wrong with distribution channels violating laws for countries in which they are not located. What the Pirate Bay is doing is hosting a list of links to files. That is legal in Sweden where the site is hosted. Why should a business comply with laws that have no legal hold on them? Do you think you should be punished for actions performed in the US that are legal there but illegal in some other country? I know of no person that would sit and take it. Why force that on a business?

"It has nothing to do with freedom. Owners of those sites well aware of it. "Freedom" is a cover they use to try to make them look legitimate. Like in most "revolutions" - freedom is just a slogun some groups use to full less educated people into doing bad things and grab the power for them."

Or freedom is a slogan for those seeking to overturn unjust laws. If it weren't for people breaking the law, we would have no Civil Rights movement. People break laws all the time when they feel those laws are unjust. We have processes built around that ideal. The American Revolution was all about breaking the bonds of unjust laws and leaders. Why is copyright law above those actions?

Joe Wreschnig
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@E,

"No one is forcing a distribution channel to get government approval. The government is just reserving the right to disapprove any distribution channel it wants and then punish those distribution channels accordingly."

Not even that. The government is reserving the right to punish, without evidence and preemptively, users of those distribution channels, even if everything acquired from the channel was legitimate. The channel itself, TBP, is basically unaffected by this change.

E Zachary Knight
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Thanks Joe. That is a far better analysis of the situation.

Luis Guimaraes
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So, "V for Vendetta" is really gonna happen?
First they came for the British users of PirateBay...

Mikhail Mukin
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@Zachary:
Let's say you wrote a song or made a game. And people set up sites where you can just download it without any money going to you. And they do so (or would do so) for any other digital product - w/o any checks or restrictions.

Question: do you want all such site to be shut down? If not possible due to legal workarounds, do you want them to at least be blocked in US, UK and some otehr countries where people still (at least often enough) pay for it?

I know I want this. If you are ok with it - well, we have different opinions, there is reason to waste more time argueing.

One of the reasons there is no console game development industry in Russia - not a lot of people own consoles... And why would you - when you can play games on PC and not pay for games, for subscription. I'm of cause not saying piracy is the only reason, it is just one of them.

Games could mitigate it a bit by going F2P and force you to buy DLC/upgrades etc. But movies/songs do not have this option. There are countries where artists do not make much money on releasing disks - cause disks with recordings cost about as much as blank disks... they have to do live performances for that - at least those can not be "copied"... It has nothing to do with civil rights.

E Zachary Knight
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"Let's say you wrote a song or made a game. And people set up sites where you can just download it without any money going to you. And they do so (or would do so) for any other digital product - w/o any checks or restrictions.

Question: do you want all such site to be shut down?"

Answer: I don't care. Why? Because those people are not my customers. I would much rather focus on the people who are paying for my game or who want to pay for my game. They are the important people. Why would I want to waste time, money and man power fighting people who have no plans to pay for my game?

"One of the reasons there is no console game development industry in Russia - not a lot of people own consoles... And why would you - when you can play games on PC and not pay for games, for subscription. I'm of cause not saying piracy is the only reason, it is just one of them."

Funny you should bring up Russia. Valve has turned Russia into is highest earning European country. How? By providing the level of service that Russia needed in order to make Valve Games a viable product there. That is how you succeed.

"But movies/songs do not have this option. There are countries where artists do not make much money on releasing disks - cause disks with recordings cost about as much as blank disks... they have to do live performances for that - at least those can not be "copied"... It has nothing to do with civil rights."

People have always had to work hard at making money. It is nothing new that musicians make the majority of their money doing things that are not selling the music directly. Concerts, Merchandise, licensing deals, etc are viable ways to make money. There are a whole lot of people able to make a living at writing and/or performing music despite the proliferation of piracy.

Once you stop thinking about piracy as something that is going to kill your business and instead start thinking of ways to make more money, you will succeed much more readily. That i the important thing, making more money. That should be your goal.

Joe Wreschnig
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"One of the reasons there is no console game development industry in Russia - not a lot of people own consoles... And why would you - when you can play games on PC and not pay for games, for subscription."

What ahistorical bullshit! Yeah, it has nothing to do with consoles being black/grey market for their commercial inception and many years thereafter. You see the same relatively weak console industries in South Korea and Germany for the same reasons.

Mikhail Mukin
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@ Joe
"The *only* difference between the situations is that you claim TPB distributes X% infringing content, and Amazon "only" distributes Y%, and X > Y."

Yes, the difference between me and and murderer... we all violate the law - I parked in the red zone and did not report new address within required number of days... the other guy killed a human. X > Y...

I'm not the guy who observers exact letter of the law myself :) The "spirit" it what is important for me. Amazon or YouTube were not set up do make piracy "hassle free". They have customer departments to deal with such problems, they have reputation etc. Unlike a lot of other sies. When governments can not shut things down due to all the legalities - use whatever other means available to make live harder for them.

Let's say I don't know (or care) if they had legal rights to kill Bin Laden (or other terrorists) with stirkes in another country - but they did the right thing regardless.

Shutting down or limiting the work of piracy sites and making live harder for the owners - I'm for this. When they (the owners) provide a proof they tried to do something to limit piracy in their systems, proof it worked - then we can talk and enable them again.

Have a great song and claim you can not distribute it because evil government limited access to the the PirateBay? lol... I played in amature bands (~20 years ago) before moving into games industry... If you are good - and not stupid - somebody with the right connections would find you even then... Do not need Pirate Bay (or any other pirate site, really)


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