Thursday, February 23, 2006

Freedom v. Hollywood.

We have been talking a lot about 'freedom of speech' lately, what about 'freedom' of sharing?

Two days ago, the Swiss and Belgian police shut down a major peer-to-peer server (P2P) – Razorback, the biggest eDonkey/eMule server in the world (BBC). One administrator is reportedly under custody in Belgium and the site's operator in Switzerland was also arrested and his home was searched while the site's servers were seized by the police.

Now who do you think it behind this? Not some poor small association of starving artists, nop, but the Motion Picture Association (MPA), in other words, Hollywood itself.

"This is a major victory in our fight to cut off the supply of illegal materials being circulated on the Internet via peer-to-peer networks," said Motion Picture Association (MPA) Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman.

MPAA anti-piracy chief John Malcolm even called Razorback2 “a menace to society". Interestingly, John Malcom used to work for Ashcroft and is a member of the conservative Federalist Society which aimed to combat what they see as the 'orthodox American liberal' ideology found in most law schools.

Anyway, it looks like P2P has become Hollywood’s new Al Qaeda. In fact, P2P servers have been accused of sharing child pornography or terrorism videos (bomb making videos, they claim). Since the Razorback servers didn't host any files, it’ll be interesting to see how that can be legally sustained. In fact, the whole idea of ‘legality’ is puzlling, given that copyright laws are different everywhere.

For those who do not see the hypocrisy of the whole thing, and put the P2P issue in 'moral' terms, just remember that one of the most important members of the MPA is Sony which is also a major maker of CD and DVD burners! How to make money both ways....

In the end, no need to panic for your pirate-friends and relatives. It is quite clear that the demise of Razorback will be like the fall of Napster – it’ll change absolutely nothing. Following raids and shutdowns file-sharers simply move to other networks. In fact, according to the BBC, notes posted on discussion groups by Edonkey users following the raid show that the numbers of people on the Edonkey network was back to normal a few hours after the server was shut down.

It’ll be interesting to see the follow-up though, particularly from a legal perspective since the technological side has already been lost by the rich and powerful producers.


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