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Read the original blog at Melody Nights.

Should File Sharing Be Stopped?

By Ross Churchill

In a bold move, The Pirate Bay has recently announced plans to move all its data storage online.

Entire coding will now be stored on global cloud services, meaning that no single jurisdiction will be able to take control and hinder their online operations. In tandem with mirroring, this will likely ensure that the site’s machines remain connected, and the site will never suffer downtime. The global hosting and seeding will also make it cheaper to run, and, crucially, speed up file transfer times.

Any attack by authorities would only have effect on single fragments of The Pirate Bay’s infrastructure, each part of which will be backed up and easily accessible for replacement on a different remote server within hours of being shut down.

The servers can be hosted by different providers, so in the event of being cut off, they can just move on, leaving the entire operation seemingly unaffected. This global hosting approach also hinders ISP addresses from being blocked, as access can always be redirected, and veteran file-sharers will always be able to sidestep the blocks.

It appears that, like an ever-evolving virus, file sharing cannot be stopped altogether, only temporarily quashed. There have been attempts to give consumers a legal, free alternative to accessing media – such as Spotify’s ad-infused streaming services, or Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want incentive – but the data shows that the public are still far too comfortable with the idea of stealing artists’ material.

Take the Radiohead example.

Data from the MCPS-PRS alliance and metrics firm BigChampage suggests that over the first 24 days, the ‘In Rainbows’ album was downloaded 2.3 million times on BitTorrent alone.

That sounds like a potentially gargantuan loss for the group, but it actually led to unexpected benefits.

Radiohead’s publisher Warner Chappell revealed that the album had been bought 3 million times over all platforms, and the band themselves have even revealed that, in terms of digital income, they made more money from this scheme than from all their past albums put together.

In simple terms, allowing people to have the album for free actually gave it monetary worth.

Of course, this business model can’t be applied to artists on all levels, but it does point to an interesting conclusion: if you are willing to give your art away for free to a global audience, the increased exposure can lead to a surge in interest, and indeed, income.

Of course, what file sharers do is illegal, and breaches copyright law – this should not be forgotten – but if these operations lead to a rise in consumption and purchasing, then perhaps authorities should focus less on shutting torrent sites down, and more on the people who abuse them. Downloading an album or two on a try-before-you-buy basis is surely harmless (especially as YouTube are seemingly so relaxed about their site hosting full-album streams) in comparison to hoarding 100,000 albums without ever paying a penny.

What do you think are the pros and cons of file sharing? Should it stop and the perpetrators be punished, or is it forgiveable in moderation?

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