The Pirate Bay Is The World's Most Efficient Public Library [Falkvinge.net]
The way media piracy works is that one person or group purchases a work, and then shares it with millions of other people. This supposedly deprives the author or artist of those millions of people’s money. One group has acquired over 50 million media items, and makes each of them available to approximately 20 million people — which must be a tremendous hit to creative professionals’ wallets. This notorious institution is called the New York Public Library.
It begs the question why every author, filmmaker, and musician isn’t up in arms about the New York Public Library’s rampant sharing, while there’s a ton of opposition to the sharing habits of BitTorrent peers who use The Pirate Bay. After all, The Pirate Bay’s community shares significantly less than the New York Public Library: just 1 million items in 2008 (and the collection certainly hasn’t grown 5000% since then). The reason that The Pirate Bay is offensive, and the New York Public Library is not, is because of its efficiency.
Before the New York Public Library can share an item with you, you first need to schlep all the way to 5th Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Then you have to walk around the massive building to find what you’re looking for. That is, if the item isn’t checked out. See, the New York Public Library has a peculiar system of storing their items: in finite, physical form. If you want to read a book or watch a film, there are only a few copies available. You can take an item home for a limited time (which forces other people to wait until you return it), but only if you live in New York State.
The Pirate Bay, on the other hand, requires you to type in a search term, click on a download button, and wait a little while. There’s no scarcity, no residency requirement, and you can do it from anywhere with Internet access. Significantly more efficient.
Either way, whether you read a library book or a torrented e-book, you no longer have to give the publisher any money. This has historically been okay, because in spite of everything, libraries haven’t killed publishing.
Physical public libraries — like the New York Public Library — are universally thought of as good for society. They provide free, open access to knowledge, culture, education, and even just entertainment to millions of people around the world. Anyone who demonizes the mission of these libraries is usually regarded as a wingnut, and not taken seriously. But it’s fairly mainstream to rail against filesharing sites like The Pirate Bay, Tuebl, and Take.fm. All these sites are doing is the same thing as brick-and-mortar libraries, but more effectively.
This is a comparison that really ought to have been pushed back when Napster was on the evening news. Filesharing sites and services are the most radically efficient public libraries that humanity has ever created. Never before has anything been better at giving the public open access to culture and knowledge. Mission accomplished. Why is this suddenly a bad thing?
If free and open access to all of human knowledge at the push of a button truly prevents our society’s beloved artists, authors, thinkers, and other creative people from putting food on their tables, then maybe it’s time to rethink how to put food on their tables.