Illegal downloads same as shoplifting

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

I’d like to take this opportunity to raise my hand and say I couldn’t care less about the ”controversial” copyright infringement bill that seems to have everyone else getting their  knickers in a knot.

Get ConnectedIt’s been interesting-ish watching all the dramas online as all and sundry predict the end of the free world as we know it on the back of this new law that comes into effect on September 1.

For anyone who somehow missed the news last week, here’s how it will work:

  •  If you illegally download files, the copyright owner can contact your internet service provider (ISP) to complain about your naughty behaviour
  • You ISP will send a warning letter saying ”stop it, you naughty net user”
  • If you don’t stop after three warning letters, the copyright owner can take a claim to the Copyright Tribunal, which can impose a maximum fine of  $15,000 to the internet account holder

There have been online protests, predictions of technologically  challenged parents being fined because of the actions of their more tech-savvy kids and a general expectation that the sky is very likely to fall in if online file-sharing is subject to legal controls.

In the past I’ve made no secret of my opinion of the file-sharing/copyright infringement situation: illegally downloading a file is really no different from swiping a CD off the shelf at The Warehouse and walking out without paying for it. Theft is theft.

I’ve heard all the arguments about how a music CD, a movie on DVD or piece of software costs less than a couple of bucks to produce  but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Sure, the individual disk might cost little but the company producing it has to also cover the cost of months  sometimes even years  of research and development and even after getting their product on retail shelves, they still have to provide support. It all cost money,  making the end cost of any product much higher.

Besides, if you enjoy a song enough to muck around downloading it illegally, why wouldn’t you want to pay for it? The average muso doesn’t get a huge cut of the retail price but it’s how they make a living.
And of course there’s the security issue: do you really know what you’re downloading? Is it worth risking your computer security to save a few bucks?

As for the worries about parents being held accountable for the actions of their children, what’s the problem? If your kids run up a huge toll bill, you pay it; if they crash the car it’s your problem. Why should the internet be any different?
If your kids won’t stop illegally downloading files, restrict their computer access, change the password or simply take the computer away. It’s up to parents to be the grown-ups.

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