Pirates and artists: love-hate story?

MULTIMEDIA: Interview with Johnathan Phan, representative, Pirate Party UK.

READ: How much harm is a pirate or a filesharer really doing to artists?

Academics and Internet users suggest that digital pirates are more culturally and economically relevant than the music industry gives them credit for.

The entertainment industry blames a lot of its woes on digital piracy. According to Jupiter Research, as quoted in the IFPI Digital Music Report for 2008, piracy cost the industry £180m in UK alone.

According to the US Department of Commerce, piracy resulted in losses of upto $250m and 750,000 jobs.

However activists suggest that these numbers are misleading.

"These figures are based on what is called deadweight loss," explains Johnathan Phan, representative of the Pirate Party UK.

"They assume that all the people who have shared files or accessed pirated media would have bought original copies if not for piracy. That's not true."

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Free culture theorists argue that a considerable number of those that access pirated products would never have been exposed to the 'legal' versions of the media.

Thus, every pirated CD can serve as a way to exchange not only a good movie, but also as an introduction to another culture.

Sources suggest that the popularity of foreign cinema in Asia, and indeed the popularity of Windows itself, is because they were pirated and distributed to different markets.

These developing markets could soon be monetized. Eventually, a pirated copy will be replaced by an original if the user thinks it worthy.

In the age of file sharing, media could easily travel through word of mouth, by users passing downloads around.

Divisive issue

The issue of piracy remains extremely contentious in most circles.

While some artists suggest that there's no escaping it, others are fighting to ensure that their intellectual property rights remain with them.

Rise of free, high quality, on demand media online is being marketed as a legal alternative to piracy.


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