Is Online Piracy Really A Crime?

Ed's Note:

This morning online piracy has been dealt a blow (major... minor... we're not yet sure) by the news that The Pirate Bay founders have been found guilty of ‘assisting in making copyright content available’ and sentenced to a year prison. ( Pirate Bay Four Get A Year In Prison , TechRadar ).

Last year, Total Film sat down with co-founder Peter Sunde and spoke to him about online piracy, copyright and the service they provide. Take a look below:


Theft isn’t a word used in the offices of The Pirate Bay.

“We’re not anti-copyright,” co-founder Peter Sunde told us. “We just don’t give a damn about it.

"We don’t want people to change the copyright laws. Copyright doesn’t work – that means we don’t have to care about whether we’re for or against it.”

Since The Pirate Bay doesn’t actually hold copies and acts as a vast indexing service, Sunde argues the site isn’t breaking the law.

“[It's] a digital library where you can share anything in digital form.

"Since there aren’t a set number of copies that you can loan to people, we’re creating a library with an endless amount of information.

"This must be good for humanity, otherwise why aren’t we all shutting down libraries?”

There’s a major flaw with that logic though. None of the creators have agreed to put their work into this “digital library”.


"They're not short-sighted. They just don't want to do it."

In Sunde's eyes though, Hollywood is simply afraid of the internet.

“They’re not short-sighted. They just don’t want to do it.

"They don’t want to change because they know how much money they make today but they don’t know how much money they might make in the future.

“If they provided a service where all new movies and all old ones were available online to download for a flat fee every month, they would make so much money and sell their inventory over and over.

"They have the technology to do it. They just don’t have the courage...”

Sunde's views are reflected in recent history within the music industry. From Napster to Metallica’s lawsuits against its fans to iPods and iTunes, file-sharing changed how we consume albums.

The lessons learned were costly. CD sales slumped and labels folded. Yet the music industry thrives: ticket sales and downloads are up, whilst Prince now gives away his latest album. Music didn’t die, its business model just evolved.

It’s a viewpoint that begs the question: what would happen if users could download a legal copy of Superbad 2 on the day of its cinema release at a lower price than cinema admission?

“Yawn, yawn, yawn,” we were told by Geraldine Moloney, European spokeswoman for The Motion Picture Association (MPA).

“The industry has changed and is experimenting with new services. You can now buy a DVD in Tescos when you go in for a pint of milk or get movies delivered to your door by the postman.

"Legal downloads and streamings are now available from services like Lovefilm and Apple. If you’re saying the studios haven’t embraced
downloads, it’s worth pointing out that until recently the technology hasn’t existed to guarantee easy delivery.

"They need to know that the technology can delive what’s needed to meet consumer expectations. Let’s not forget that there are two healthy business models in theatrical releases and DVD." [page-break]

Theatrical is "the locomotive that drives the whole train"

Paramount Pictures International head honcho Andrew Cripps is adamant that theatrical releases need to be protected, not watered down by simultaneous downloads.

“The success of a movie is set up by how successful it is in its theatrical window. It’s the locomotive that drives the whole train – and DVD at the moment is still the major moneymaker."

“There’s been such a major change over the last year in terms of what you can download now. But is it simultaneous with the cinema release? No, it is not.”

Yet if the industry really is haemorrhaging revenue at the levels it claims, a radical rethink seems inevitable.

If the studios won’t change and there’s no sign of the pirates weighing anchor, there’s only one avenue left: remind these Knock-Off Nigels of the ethics of piracy.

Can it ever be right to take something created by someone else and share it or sell it without their consent?

Moloney from the MPA poses a sharp question: “Surely if something’s worth watching, it’s worth rewarding the people who made it?”

When all’s said and done, that’s what it ultimately comes down to.

WebComics courtesy of HiJinks Ensue and Wired

For more information on the laws of Copyright in the UK, look at