“Imagine a world without free knowledge” thunders Twitter as Wikipedia, the online and vaguely unreliable encyclopaedia goes offline for a few hours. Elsewhere Shane Richmond tells us:
And the man has a point it has to be said.
For 24 hours journalists will have to use Google to do their research. Overall productivity should increase slightly as the rest of us don’t pause to look up something and then get sucked into half an hour of clicking and distraction as our attention wanders into the life cycle of chickens or some such irrelevant nonsense.
There was, of course, an intent behind this blackout. Online Piracy. Now Online Piracy is a real issue and something should be done about it. It can damage revenues of some huge companies that don’t pay very much tax on those revenues. These revenues have been hard hit in the last few years and while other companies have taken a hit because of the massive global recession these companies have only been affected by the evil that is Online Piracy.
I do a little myself. I’m a pirate. Arr, Jim lad. There, that proves it.
I even downloaded a book this morning.
I’m the reason why you are all “suffering” now. You have to “Imagine a world without free knowledge” because I can’t be arsed to pay full price for a book. Scandalous.
Of course there is another way the publishing and film industries could deal with internet piracy. People have been saying it for years. They could adapt to the new technology.
Did you know, for instance, that paper used to be made from rags (really, look it up). Rags were pressed and rinsed and all sorts and turned into paper. This was used for printing books. This was a very involved and complicated and expensive process and when people came up with the idea of using wood pulp instead on a large scale that was cheaper and better quality many people were appalled. The rich, because it meant that books would be cheaper and more easily available to the ordinaries and the paper makers because, well because they were stuffed. The winners, monetarily, were the printers and publishers. They were happy because they were richer. The ordinaries were happier because they could buy books. Printers and publishers who stuck with the old ways and good old fashioned rag paper went to the wall. It would only take one or two printers to make the switch and the local economy would be changed.
Now, some publishers could make the switch now, or at least invent a new revenue stream. Sell an electronic copy of a film or book or song. The profit to the publisher might even increase, no overheads for printing, or DVD or CD manufacture, or for distribution. So, some other companies might go to the wall, but well, fuck ’em. “What about people copying them?” cry the publishers. Well what about it? I can copy a CD or DVD laughably easily. I could scan in a book if I really wanted to. But these days we have authenticated accounts, people have to use electronic payment that can be verified and checked against the existence of a real person, you can put into the file an electronic watermark that will identify the account downloading the file. If you then find that file available on the open market you can sue the arse off that person and it will discourage people from following suit. A few test cases like that and you’re sorted. “Oh well,” some will say “these sorts of watermarks can be spoofed or removed”. Well it depends on how you do it. The technology exists to make spoofing and removal hard or prohibitive. It’d be easy to keep the encryption ahead of the criminals like me. Very easy. I’d have to go legit. Who’d really suffer? The modern equivalent of rag paper makers and people like me. They’re antiquated luddites and I’m a criminal. Why do you want to protect us?