So, the government and various music companies (and others) have banded together with a whole gang of ISPs in the hope of giving online piracy a kick in the pants. It’s good to see that at least they’re not running straight for the ill-advised ‘three strikes and you’re disconnected’ option being bandied around in France, although I’m willing to bet that the onslaught of paperwork and hassle from this decision will create almost as many problems as it solves. There is part of me that thinks this is all out of order, that the freedom of the Internet is a good thing, and that pirates will always find a way around the barriers they come up with… but on a personal level, I’m not sure that I’m that bothered, and in certain ways I think this could be a positive thing.
It’s true that downloading has completely changed the media landscape, in ways that the big Media corporations are only now starting to understand. The idea that all you have to do is get the right software and you can access almost anything is rather dizzying, and it’s very easy to get into the habit of assuming everything should be free. It’s easy to resent the idea that you should have to pay for something when you can get it for nothing online, and over the last few years, you’ve probably ended up with a significant proportion of the ‘current generation’ of kids who are perfectly au fait with the idea of downloading whole seasons of TV off the net for nothing, that it’s just something you do. It’s very easy to not value something as much when you can get it easily and for nothing – and over the last couple of years, I’ve actually found myself gravitating back towards the idea of getting my media through more traditional routes, and that there’s something more satisfying in having something as a physical media rather than as a nebulous file.
After my initial rush of “Wow, so many things to download…”, I’ve mainly used it as a way of getting at American TV earlier (especially when, for an extended period of time, we didn’t have a functioning TV…), but even here, the novelty is starting to wear off, and if as a result of this new decision I’m really not able to do that anymore, than it’ll be a little annoying, but it’s not like it’ll be a massive tragedy. I will shrug, I will say “hey ho”, and I will get on with things, and simply have to be much better at avoiding the spoiler tags on net and magazine articles.
I think the only thing which is really frustrating is that they’re tackling the symptom, but they’re not going to look at this and think “Hey- there are lots of consumers who might be really interested in getting their content as quickly as possible, and don’t want to be restricted by which country they live in.” What I’d really like to see is making paid downloads of TV available worldwide (or subscription ‘channels’)- give people the right to see what they want, when they want, and the right people will very likely still make money. It’s holding on to an ageing distribution ideal, when the world has changed. But, it’s not going to happen right away, if at all. And, for me, it’ll be an annoyance, but I’m not sure downloading via that route will be something I’ll miss that much.