The War on Piracy = The War on Drugs

But does the comparison really make sense?

After all, the drug trade features violent cartels, ‘mules,’ overdoses, gang warfare… pooping condoms after cross-Atlantic flights! By comparison, the war on piracy involves ripping off Metallica; it features a finite number of supply channels (ISPs) and lots of legal alternatives…

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Yet this is an analogy that keeps sticking, for a number of reasons.  Both ‘wars’ feature endless crackdowns, shakedowns and raids, not to mention persistent ‘abuse’ and a seemingly unstoppable level of ‘usage’.  And just like the government, this is a memo that executives in the traditional music industry are getting, but rarely discussing.  Which why it was surprising to hear it out loud from Rio Caraeff, CEO of VEVO, a joint venture involving three out of the four major labels:

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But Caraeff only has a limited vote.  And all indications point to a far greater level of anti-piracy enforcement ahead, especially as an increasingly-agitated Hollywood steps in.  That means stepped-up action against infringing companies, more raids against high-profile operations like MegaUpload, and according to sources, more direct action against the executives and employees at these companies.  And, continued clampdowns against the users snorting all that free music…

23 Responses

  1. wallow-T

    “Digital Prohibition.” The common theme: a desire to stop a natural human activity which vast numbers find enjoyable.

    After a decade of legal wins, what is the result for the content industry? Al Capone was jailed on tax charges: how much did that shut down drinking?

  2. Yves Villeneuve

    Some people call any war unwinnable.

    Most wars can be won with patience and with the correct strategy, which may evolve or abruptly change over time.

    Follow the enemy very closely. Don’t allow them to thrive for very long.

    • Malcolm Kyle

      What is it you don’t understand about failure?

      Most of us know that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high – no matter what, so why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Even if we could afford to put Narcs on every single corner, at least half of them would soon become dealers themselves. Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future.

      Why do you wish to continue with a policy that has proven itself to be a poison in the veins of our once so proud & free nation? Even if you cannot bear the thought of people using drugs, there is absolutely nothing you, or any government, can do to stop them. We have spent 40 years and trillions of dollars on this dangerous farce; Prohibition will not suddenly and miraculously start showing different results. Do you actually believe you may personally have something to lose If we were to begin basing our drug policy on science & logic instead of ignorance, hate and lies?

      Maybe you’re a police officer, a prison guard or a local/national politician. Possibly you’re scared of losing employment, overtime-pay, the many kick-backs and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks?

      Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem.

      Prohibition Prevents Regulation : Legalize, Regulate and Tax!

      • Yves Villeneuve

        Taxing drugs will simply raise the price of drugs allowing drug cartels to undercut prices. Do you want government to legalize cheap Meth, cheap Crack Cocaine or cheap Heroin?

        Even if drugs were not taxed, crime orgs will continue to exist in some fashion or another. What crime org product/activity do you next want to legalize everywhere?

        Controlling music theft is not prohibition of a harmful substance. Theft is theft. What is your position on that?

        • Anon Cow

          my understanding is probably off and made without any concrete facts so please take at face value.

          why regulate and legalize drugs when its already been done by the trillion dollar pharmacuitical industry. your new dealer is your corner doctors office who has access to all the sythetic narcautics you will ever need.

          as for piracy, the comsumers have spoken and an industry has historically not flourished going against those with the dollar votes. its a losing war for them simply because the times have dictated that the defacto is no longer acceptable and as soon as they can band together and innovate and increase their efficiency they will end up like all other to big to fail industries.

          • Yves Villeneuve

            Don’t really know what you are saying in regard to pharmaceuticals.

            However, music piracy is theft. Society should not be condoning theft. Just because it is easy to steal and there was no real threat of getting caught and paying a reasonable penalty, it doesn’t make stealing acceptable from a moral point of view… I don’t care if you are a grandparent or 10 year old child doing the music piracy (stealing).

            Consumers cannot speak on this matter because they are the ones exhibiting criminal behavior in a fundamental sense and don’t believe there is anything wrong with this. It is the government’s duty to properly steer society with reasonable laws and enforcement.

            Rest assured, those government and consumer attitudes involving music piracy are beginning to change for the better.

      • Yves Villeneuve

        I don’t expect you to respond because…

        I don’t think you want or are able to respond.

  3. lmnop

    Megaupload was a victory beyond the wildest imaginations. Industry word is that Grooveshark is next.

  4. Visitor

    The analogy fails.

    Drugs are a damage one inflects on oneself*. Piracy is a damage to the livelihood of others.

    – Versus

    * With the possibility of further societal damages, such as when the drug user becomes addicted, overdoses, or attempts to operate heavy machinery.

  5. Versus

    Either war is winnable with enough will and enforcement.

    That is, winnable at least in the sense of significant improvement, a meaningful victory in itself. We have not won the “war” to eradicate murder and other crimes either, yet it is still worth enforcing laws against such crimes if they lead to significant reduction.


    – Versus

    • Malcolm Kyle

      It is extremely disingenuous to compare laws that are obviously there to protect us from each other – such as those pertaining to Pedophilia, Rape and Murder, with laws solely and foolishly designed to protect individuals from themselves – such as prohibition.

      While it is true that taking any drug (especially alcohol and tobacco) can sometimes indirectly affect others, this exact same argument was used to implement and painfully prolong alcohol prohibition in the US during the 1920s. Domestic violence, wife battering and child neglect were definitely not curtailed, or even slightly ameliorated during this earlier period of insanity.

      Not only did Prohibition increase usage but it also exacerbated all other related problems while bootleggers, just like many of our present day drug lords, became rich and powerful folk heroes as a result.

      Historically, the prohibition of any mind altering substance has never succeeded in providing what is needed – which is a safer environment for the users, the addicts, their families and society at large; Prohibition always spawns far worse conditions than those it’s supporters claim to be able to alleviate, so shouldn’t we all be aware by now of the difference between sensible public policies designed to protect us, and those foolishly designed by despotic imbeciles to create as much mayhem as possible?

      • Versus

        Hello –

        It was not my intent to imply that murder and piracy are crimes of similar moral weight. Rather, the only point of my comparison is this: Laws can be considered worth enforcing even if perfect (100%) adherence is unattainable.

        Hence, the same point could have been made about any other issue of law enforcement: obedience to traffic lights, anti-littering laws, etc. Perfect enforcement in these matters is unlikely, yet these laws can still be justified for their positive (if imperfect) effect. Laws can be successful in degrees, and not only in absolute.

        Similarly, anti-piracy laws can be considered successful to a degree if they reduce piracy, even if they fail to eliminate it completely.



  6. ade

    riaa, mpaa, bpi cf: sticking their head in the sand since 1994

  7. @jrhorn424

    More thoughtful than expected. The War on Nouns.

  8. @gluca

    “Piracy is a bit like the war on drugs, it’s an unwinnable war in my opinion”


  9. @paulmichaels

    There’s something to this – both laws seem to cause more problems than they solve!

  10. @cocoy

    “The War on Piracy = The War on Drugs.”


  11. @artzbridge

    How do we maintain the monetary value of content?

  12. Hypocrites!

    The United States government treats both drugs (especially heroin and cocaine) and P2P as extremely useful for the various agencies’ interests and operations.

    War on drugs? Seriously? OK, let’s hear Rio Caraeff’s opinion on the poppy fields of Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan Sees Increase in Poppy Cultivation

    What? Too sensitive of a subject, you say…?