Steal This Film Fails to Persuade

I downloaded yesterday a copy of "Steal This Film", a documentary about The Pirate Bay (TPB), arguably the world's largest torrent tracker. Back a couple of months ago TPB's servers were seized in a Swedish raid on grounds of copyright infringement. The whole idea of "Steal This Film" was to provide not only an opposing view to the seizure of their servers, but to provide a counterpoint to the whole piracy and peer to peer debate.

And unfortunately, I think they only half-succeeded. They historical events don't seem to be lacking at all, but TPB seemed to lack any philosophical basis for their reasons to justify piracy. Honestly, I came into this movie hoping to get more ammunition to justify piracy, but because there didn't seem to be a real argument in favor it, I actually came away from the movie thinking that it is wrong.

One of the 'Pirates' was explaining that she felt that it was against her ethics to buy a CD or movie on DVD. That's it. No explanation. Another remarked that he felt by supporting TPB and facilitating the theft of over 150,000 copyrighted materials he was committing 'civil disobedience'. Could you elaborate?

Unfortunately, TPB really seems to cast itself in an immature light with their reasoning in favor of piracy. For example, they played a clip of an MPAA executive stating that obvious economic facts that their product cannot just be given away for free. TPB's response? "It's not my problem to come up with an answer." Interesting. TPB, at least through this documentary, really tries to portray itself as an advocate for change in intellectual property laws, but fails (in my opinion) to offer any real compelling reason why that should be, and fails again in really pushing for an alternative to outrageous movie prices and the equally ridiculous idea of getting it for free.

They were right about a few things, though. The MPAA and RIAA really do need to change their business model. With the advent of online music stores such as iTunes, the RIAA is slowly moving into the 21st century along with the rest of the world's digital civilization, but even still, their model for business is quite inept for the age we're in.

People ought to be able to get music and have fair use with it. Before the age of Digital Rights Management (DRM), it was quite easy to be able to buy a CD, duplicate it, make mixes of different songs, copy it to a cassette tape, etc. within the bounds of personal use. The new locks that come with downloadable content are unacceptable because they remove the ability of the user to play it whenever, wherever, and on whatever they want. This only adds fuel and justification to the piracy movement.

No, "Steal This Film" fails in providing a real compelling pro-piracy justification. But who knows, maybe in Part Two (scheduled for release in two months) they'll redeem themselves. Until then, TPB really has lost ground on the offensive.

Posted on Aug 22
Written by Wayne Hartman