Here is an article I wrote for my newspaper class in High School. It states a lot of things that are obvious, mostly because my audience was not tech-savvy. Because of this my teacher made me define almost EVERYTHING. Sorry for that, but apart from that I think it contains a few things that aren't so obvious.
DRM and Piracy.
Whether it be music, movies, software, video games, or books, all have been influenced by piracy. Piracy, according to the website Techweb.com, is "The illegal copying of software [or music, movies, etc.] for distribution within the organization, or to friends, clubs and other groups, or for duplication and resale." (Techweb.com) Statistics say that $6.1 billion is lost every year due to piracy in just the movie industry alone. Organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) work to stomp out piracy, but they are totally ineffective and blind to the obvious: Piracy will never die.
Piracy has been around almost as long as the internet has, though it was not as user friendly. Only those with a significant amount of knowledge of computers were able to pirate. Pirates had to know how to use and access services such as IRC and USENET, which were not, and are still not well known amongst casual computer users. They are basically ways to communicate and share files with each other. They also require a deep knowledge of and experience with each of the services.
Piracy first took off in 1999 when an 18-year-old college dropout named Shawn Fanning released a program that allowed all computer users easy access to music. (A Brief History of Napster) All a user had to do was type in a box, the artist or song title and click on a result to get music. A user didn't have to be tech-savvy to pirate, all they had to do is type and click. Easy as that. The RIAA was quick to notice and immediately filed a lawsuit against the service on December 7, 1999. It wasn't until 2001 the government ruled that Napster was to be shut down. This case was a turning point for piracy and also the fight against it. Until this event, no laws had been laid down regarding copyright infringement in this new realm... the Internet. The band, U2's guitarist Dave Evans spoke about Napster in an interview with CNN "If they think Napster's bad, I can tell you there's a lot worse coming, The software that is untraceable is just around the corner." And that is exactly what happened.
One tactic to fight against pirates is through DRM, or Digital Rights Management. This is found primarily on music and movies. What it does is place an encryption on each file that limits how and where it is used. The most common DRM is found on music bought on Apple's iTunes music store called QTFairPlay. When you buy a song off of iTunes, it links that file to your iTunes account and you can use it only on computers you have registered (up to a limit of 5). If you try to play it on any other computer than those you have registed, it won’t let you. Registration is a quick process but gets annoying. But thats not it; not only can you only use it on one portable device but that portable device has to be be an Apple product, either an iPod or iPhone. Sure, this prevents buyers of purchasing a song then sharing it with as many friends as he or she wishes, but it also limits the buyer to using only one brand of mp3 player. This is wrong. If someone pays money for a song, they should have the freedom to use use it on any device they own, whether it be Microsoft's Zune or any other music player.
In schools, when a rule is put down, there will always be a group of kids who will try to rebel and break the rules without getting caught. The same applies to piracy. When an encryption is put on music, it is an open invitation to hackers to try and crack it and to be the first one to do so. To them it is a sport and their entertainment. Needless to say, Apple's DRM Fairplay has been cracked. On September 12, 2006, Apple released the 7th version of iTunes and along with it an updated DRM. Within eight hours, the encryption was successfully cracked. Soon afterwards programs such as Jhymn (Java Hear Your Music aNywhere) and QTFairUse popped up allowing non-hackers to easily remove the DRM from their music in a user-friendly interface. With the encryption gone, users could play their purchased music on any computer, any portable device, anywhere. They could even share these files with friends with no problems.
In Feburary 2007, CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs made history when he spoke out against DRM in his essay "Thoughts on Music". In this essay he discussed the cons of DRM. Which included less sales and making it more problematic for the legit buyer to buy and use music. His main point was this:
DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.(Thoughts on Music)
Encryptions are often found on video games as well. On August 21, 2007, the video game Bioshock was released with what seemed like an extremely secure anti-piracy system. Upon installation onto the computer, this system would authenticate the game with an official server before the game could be playable. (This also caused problems with people who legitimately bought game). Thirteen days later, the game was successfully cracked and posted online for all to download and play. (2K: We'll Continue Anti-Piracy Measures).
DRM is a tactic that costs a lot of time and money and is just plain ineffective. Most encryptions are cracked in a matter of days. It just a small nuisance to pirates but at the same time makes life harder for those who want to play by the rules and buy music legit.
Another tactic music labels have taken against music pirates is file spoofing. Basically this is when music labels hire companies to distribute "decoy" files of the same size and name of songs. These files are filled with empty data that will not work inside any music player. The idea of these files is to discourage pirates to use P2P (Peer to peer) software to download music. They figure that after a user downloads one of these spoof files, they will get discouraged and give up. The idea that this will work is just ridiculous. With today's internet connections users can download a music file in well under a minute. To try again and attempt to get a real song is nothing. Most pirates will try again and again until they get what they want. Usually it doesn't take very long anyways.
The more "high tech" and advanced pirates use a system of downloading files called Bittorrents. This system connects hundreds and sometimes thousands of users together to deliver files at a very fast rate. The system downloads different pieces of the file from many different other users. Instead of downloading from one source (as if downloading off of a website) you are downloading from thousands of different sources. This type of downloading is most commonly used with large files such as movies, TV shows, music videos and discographies, and software. Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have attempted to stop both piracy and users from hogging all their bandwidth by blocking ports and blocking data coming to and from Bit torrent programs. Of course, these Torrent programs have evolved and adapted to these actions. Recently programs have added features to allow users to select any port they wish to download through. Also users are now given the option to encrypt data coming to and from the user. This bypasses the ISPs restrictions by going under their radar. They can't read the data if its encrypted.
The most infamous (and possibly the most ineffective) steps taken against piracy are lawsuits. The MPAA and RIAA have been finding people who pirate and websites that promote piracy and suing them, often times for ridiculous amounts of money. They have targeted colleges and torrent sites alike. The most infamous case is the lawsuit MPAA vs Allofmp3.com. Allofmp3.com is a Russian site that sells high quality illegal music for dirt cheap prices (somewhere around 2-4 cents a song). In December 2006, the MPAA sued the site for 1.7 trillion dollars.(Labels Sue Allofmp3.Com for $1.7 Trillion). Even though they did this, nothing came of it as it was a Russian site. Any group or company located in another country is not subject to the laws of the United States.
Sure "Big Brother" can sue a handful of college students and shut down a P2P site every 6 months, but that has never and will never work to stop piracy. They need to understand that there is simply no way to gain complete control of piracy in the digital, or even come close to it. Pirates and hackers will always find a way to bypass any restrictions that are set in front of them. And those that release their products, be it music, movies, or software, need to realize that no matter what they do, some people will steal and grab it for free while others will gladly pay.