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Appeared on: Tuesday, February 08, 2005
The Internet ERA Pirates

1. The Internet ERA Pirates

The side street peddlers strolling about with CDs in store, ready to sell them on tap, constitute a question-the most visible one-regarding a major issue our post industrial society has to deal with, an issue called “intellectual property.” The thorn in the flesh of companies all over the world is not the 9 million CDs illegally sold in the country-a number that is in fact exaggerated (author’s remark: the sleight of hand on behalf of the record companies in this place lies in the fact that even if 9 million bootleg CDs had been in traffic we cannot be certain that the record companies would have sold as many. And that because one would easily pay 5 Euro to buy a CD made by an artist who is not amongst their favorites, whereas it is doubtful whether they would pay 20 Euro for the same product. Thus, the number of CDs “lost” through piracy is much lower than the numbers released.)

The deepest cause of the phenomenon called “piracy” can be traced in the dramatic changes brought to the conditions determining the circulation of head works as set by technology. A detail the record companies have not yet realized turned up: the head work go-betweens. These companies kept on operating on the old working model until they found themselves in front of a parallel circulation blast which they have been trying to keep under guard by adopting measures of police nature. For instance: while there was a drastic drop in the raw material used for the making of replicas, record companies, (when coming all the way from the vinyl to the CD), have pin-headedly kept prices where they ought not to be. Yet, huge margins of profit cannot but motivate others invade the market even when this happens unlawfully. So it is late-too late in fact-that the companies have decided to reduce the price of records, so that part of the motivation called profit be wiped out and, besides the fact that the action taken is time-consuming, it is also being carried out ineffectively and under a date of expiration, set within six months.

Bad news for record companies does not end here, though. A new form of technology makes intellectual property circulation even cheaper. Consequently, this new technology may automatically solve the problem created by small-time bootleg CD peddlers. The Internet and MP3 music files exchange are a source of threat to the record companies and bootleg CD peddlers alike. They drive them off market.

Record companies have already been engaged in lawsuit against users who have exchanged pieces of music on the net, a procedure that used to be totally legal, since we have all borrowed records from friends or recorded on tapes songs we liked. The indictments brought against 200 users (obviously to prevent others from doing so, as the number of those who have been exchanging songs amounts up to millions) are not going to slow down the course of the stream. On the contrary, technology itself makes things easier for the real pirates as well as the fake ones.

We are at the threshold of a new era. The old models regulating relationships (especially those pertaining to ownership and society) are not functional. Whatever is new, in a stream like manner, is washing away anything old. An entirely new approach to the issue in question is needed and that is not the one that calls for the police. The more the market is getting strained by excessive profit per product unit, the more motives to sustain criminal behavior will come to surface. Today, it may be the CD peddlers, tomorrow it may be us, the internet users.

By Pashos Mandravelis.

email to P. Mandravelis

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