Gateways to piracy

When "service" and "availability" are last

As the calendar changed to 2012, the U.K.-based Publishers Association (PA) announced that piracy had “more than doubled” between 2010 and 2011.  The association drew this conclusion from the number of takedown notices it issued in both years.

This is another case in which the “instance of piracy” is considered the same as its impact, and I’ve made a resolution to let my prior writing on this stand.  But the PA’s Richard Mollett took it a step further, claiming:

Search engines are the gateway to piracy. That’s why we are working with the government to try to encourage search engines to do more to reduce the prominence of these infringing sites.

The PA is noted for its strong anti-piracy stance, and with SOPA still very much alive in the United States, blaming the gatekeeper is in vogue.

But contrast this point of view with that of video-game executive Gabe Newell, whose interview on pricing was the subject of another post.  On piracy Newell says:

It’s a service issue. The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates ... The people who are telling you that Russians pirate everything are the people who wait six months to localize their product into Russia. … It doesn’t take much in terms of providing a better service to make pirates a non-issue.

Usual disclaimer: this isn’t a claim that piracy is not a problem for at least some publishers, and I think enforcement is an option to provide a short-term bulwark.  But blaming Google for revealing where books may be found without also considering something basic, like whether books are legitimately available in the markets that are looking for them, is not helping.

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