Canadians can no longer access Demonoid.com, the world’s second-most popular BitTorrent tracker. According to a statement on Demonoid’s website, legal action treatened by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) has forced them to block connections from Canada. This can only be seen as a major victory for the CRIA. Thanks to them, it is no longer possible to download pirated music off the internet…unless, of course, you happen to live outside of Canada, or you can figure out how to type “thepiratebay.org” or “torrentbox.com” into your web browser. Congratulations, CRIA, that’s some lawyering money well-spent. Good on ya.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the CRIA, it is “Canadian” only in the sense that its main job is representing the Canadian interests of big international labels such as Warner Music, Universal, and Sony BMG. It is our equivalent to the U.S.’s RIAA, who are famous for intimidating college students, music-loving little girls and disabled single mothers with huge lawsuits. The CRIA has claimed, at times, to represent the companies who sell 95% of the music made and sold in Canada, but they actually only represent a tiny sliver of Canadian artists. Most of the major Canadian independent labels left the organization last year, citing a number of differences with the major label gang.
The CRIA also made the news last month when they reversed course on fifteen years of their own policy of supporting the private copying levy. That’s the surcharge we all pay on blank CDs, DVDs, and now iPods, which is then redistributed back to artists. It seems that the big labels suddenly realized that the surcharge on iPods implicitely legalizes P2P file sharing in Canada. That is, if it’s not legal already.
It’s easy to see who the CRIA is protecting, and it’s not artists. Detailed ecomonic analysis has demonstrated that the vast majority of artists benefit financially from downloading. It is only the rich few at the very top who suffer.
No economic argument, however, is likely to persuade the CRIA. They will continue to threaten lawsuits and lobby for changes to Canada’s copyright laws instead of finding new ways to embrace technology and promote artists through file sharing. Some people have compared the strategy of threatening torrent companies one-by-one to trying to fix a leaky dike by sticking your finger in the holes. That’s not a good analogy at all. In reality, it is closer to trying to stop a river by wading into it with a paper cup. Not only is the effort doomed to failure, it’s impossible not to look like an idiot in the attempt.
Oh, well—at least Michael Moore gets it.