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What does social media mean for piracy?


piracyEven before the popularization of Napster in the late 1990s, the Internet was an extremely efficient way to share content, including pirated material. The net has made it easy to share files digitally, which has also led people to pirate them illegally. The result has been a struggle between governments, interest groups, and users.

The debate over piracy, however, has taken a new turn due to a prominent trend: the rise of social media. Social media has added even greater efficiencies to content sharing, but will this increase piracy, or curtail it by offering more accessible alternatives?


One of social media’s characteristics is shareability, specifically how easy it is to share links and content via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media conduits. With the ability to easily share and embed information, the ability to share copyrighted work has risen as well.

Here are some prominent examples of social media enabling piracy:

YouTube: Anyone can upload a video to YouTube, even TV shows, which was the fuel of the YouTube-Viacom $1 billion lawsuit. Today, Google and YouTube try to find the right balance between user content and copyrighted content. In some cases, YouTube has even muted the audio of videos with copyrighted music.

MySpace: In 2006, Universal Music sued MySpace, claiming it was a copyright infringer due to its video uploads feature. This followed similar lawsuits issued by Universal Music against video sharing sites Bolt and Grouper.

Facebook: Facebook recently became a center of the piracy debate when torrent sharing came to Facebook. Torrents are a preferred way to share peer-to-peer content illegally.

Facebook has since blocked torrents from The Pirate Bay (a prominent torrent-sharing website), and it seems that sharing torrents in a way that is tied to your actual identity might not be wise. Hence, Facebook is unlikely to become a platform for continued infringement.

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