I was too busy to make it to Birmingham’s Digital Britain Unconference yesterday, but one comment about the benefits of piracy in terms of information retrieval got me wondering: What ever happened to the virtue of deferred gratification?
The digital world (both legal and illegal) strives to feed our desire for instant gratification, but it will never satisfy us. Am I grateful that I can search for millions of different books on sites like amazon? Increasingly I am frustrated at having to wait a couple of days for delivery. The faster we are satisfied the faster we want to be satisfied. In twenty years time people will probably be complaining that they had to think of an object before it instantly appeared on their 3D printer; objects should appear before we think of them!
The move towards instant gratification is not a new thing, but as we defer gratification less and less you can’t help but wonder about the effect it will have on society. Criminals lacking the ability to defer gratification is not the same as saying that people who can’t defer gratification are criminals…instead we say the law is an ass.
It’s not quite the three strikes that got people worried back in February, but the online crackdown against music pirates continues. Following Virgin’s warning letters, five more ISPs have signed up to a similar deal: BT, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB, and Carphone Warehouse.
With pirates having fewer places to turn Virgin will undoubtedly be breathing a sigh of relief, however, everyone else (with the exception of the music industry) will continue to complain. The biggest complaint, at least in today’s newspapers, is parents suffering for their children’s misdemeanors (The Times), although I would personally spin it as ‘parents having to take responsibility for their children’. Suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so unreasonable.
Whilst the warning letters don’t bother me (I don’t illegally download music), they do seem to have some effect. The realisation that their illegal behaviour can identified and recorded seems to be enough for many people. Just the other day a fellow Virgin customer was complaining to me that they were going to have to change their music sharing habits: Obviously I was my usual sympathetic self .
The alternative to buying each song individually seems to be the proposed internet music ‘tax’ (in the words of the irrational Daily Mail), or ‘licence fee’ (in the words of the right-wing Daily Telegraph which whilst hating licences loves big business more). The proposed £30 a year doesn’t seem to excessive for a married couple with 2.4 kids, but there are some obvious concerns, such as will the licence stifle innovation as the music industry sits on its laurels, and will people still be able to buy just the odd song or album when the whole music industry is turned on its head. Apple’s iTunes would be set to lose 90% of their UK business over night; but do we really need such a business taking a cut in this day and age?
I think the letters are a step in the right direction, they are forcing a solution to be found to what is obviously a problem. If you don’t want to pay for the music then don’t buy it, but you can’t expect to have your cake and eat it too.
It turns out that on the same day I was having my new Virgin Media services installed (last Friday), it was being reported in the Telegraph that Virgin Media has agreed to send out warning letters to the thousands of users downloading and sharing music illegally online in a 10-week trial. This can be seen as the first step in the British Phonographic Industry’s desired three strikes process. Whilst I am not bothered by the move, it will be interesting to see how other customers react.
The Telegraph’s story places teenagers at the centre of their story:
Teenagers building vast music collections by downloading songs illegally from the internet should beware. Their access to free music faces being cut off by irate parents.
But the illegal downloading of music is obviously not restricted to teenagers, the broadband bill payers are just as likely to be stealing music, and it seems unlikely that they will welcome Virgin’s helpful reminders about the illegal nature of their activities. How many annoying letters will make the average broadband customer jump ship? Virgin is obviously in a stronger position than some other broadband providers, as the broadband is just one part of a larger package of services which will tempt customers to stay, however, it may encourage people to start keeping an eye open for alternative suppliers.
The only definite outcome of Virgin Media’s move is that it has tempted me to download some music illegally, just so I can see exactly what the letter says. Luckily, however, I know some rather unsavoury Virgin Media customers who seem likely to be in the first bundle of warnings, so I will continue to polish my halo instead.
Personally I am a fan of all stories that make the Finns look silly; a justifiable penance for the creation of the Moomins. Last week Mashable reported that the Copyright Information and Anti-piracy Centre had disconnected a Finnish government office for downloading music illegally. I love the idea of disconnecting people who illegally share files, although the problem will always be with those who are downloading on someoneelse’s network. Is this story true? It sounds unlikely, and I could only find a reference to it on Mashable, and TorrentFreak (who they reference) on Google News. Nonetheless it provides the opportunity to have a little rant about the constant mentioning of 1984: the book’s cover accompanies this particular Mashable ‘article’, and it is also mentioned on a previous Mashable article the author references.
Reading the blogospere it often seems that the only book anyone has ever read is 1984. Whilst I am a fan of Orwell’s work, I don’t necessarily think that every occasion any level of surveillance is mentioned it is necessary to compare such surveillance with Orwell’s dystopian vision. Surely there is some Godwin’s law equivalent for the invocation of 1984 whenever a government tries to restrict a technophile’s unfettered use of a technology.
The BBC are reporting that a fake media file has been widely seeded on file-sharing networks. Supposedly the biggest outbreak for 3years. As a person who doesn’t illegally download songs or films, it is the sort of story that makes me smile. Would you feel sorry for the burglar who scratched himself on the broken window?
Most people don’t steal films and music because of an unerring belief in the faults of the intellectual property laws; they steal because they want the music and films and don’t want to pay for them. There are problems with the intellectual property laws, but stealing is not the right way to go about changing them. If you don’t want to pay, then don’t watch/listen.
It would be interesting if the record and film industries started seeding these trojans, after all people would be damaging themselves through carrying out an illegal act.