News Limited CEO Kim Williams gave a speech to the Australian International Movie Convention this week discussing the rising prevalence of piracy online. I've got a lot of sympathy for the argument that blithely downloading content through BitTorrent is a hugely damaging activity for content creators, but there's a crucial element of Williams' speech that's deeply deceptive and fundamentally ignorant.
Picture by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Williams' speech is reproduced in full over at Mumbrella, and it's an interesting read. He's pushing the barrow of saying ISPs should be responsible for what their users do, which hasn't got much legal traction in Australia yet. Williams (who used to head up FOXTEL) doesn't address the issue of shows appearing in Australia months after they come out overseas, which remains a challenge even when legal services are available. But there's one claim he makes about the ease of accessing pirated content which is simply wrong. Here it is:
There’s all the illegal downloading software you have to buy—and the fact that the only way to buy it is by giving your credit card details to someone called Ivan who lives in a quaint little village on the Russian steppe. Or to a criminal with a fake name living in New Zealand. And the cost of the new hard drive you’re going to need if the Russians crash your computer… and you lose all your family photographs and movies, including that footage of your youngest child’s very first steps that you forgot to copy to disk.
I don't doubt that you can find sites online that will sell you BitTorrent software. But I don't need to tell Lifehacker readers that there are free and open source alternatives that do a much better job, including uTorrent (on both Windows and Mac) and Deluge. Furthermore, there's no direct connection between accessing pirate content and losing data from your hard drive. No matter what you do with your computer, you should have an ongoing backup plan.
Doubtless Williams is hoping his comments will scare a few people away from downloading. But his frustration over the mismatch between copyright laws and current practices isn't really an excuse for inaccurate fear-mongering.
Scumbag theft [Mumbrella]