Heavy Metal and copyright

Seeing that my writing in Icelandic has been moved to another website and this one has been inactive for quite a while I will in the future be using it for my English speaking audience.

Since I was a teenager I have been a big fan of heavy metal and I think I could be safely described as a true metalhead. It has been absolutely fascinating for me to watch the evolution of this music around the world. It’s a type of music that does not get a lot of airplay on the radio and some people simply describe it as noise. I became fascinated with heavy metal around the same time as the debate around illegal downloading and piracy started. I got introduced to Metallica just before they sued Napster for copyright infringement. At the time, Napster was the main place to download music online and it was amazing how easy and quick it was to get music from artists all around the globe. But at the same time I could understand and appreciate the artists point of view. I would have gladly paid for the music I was downloading but at the time there were no such services available. Not to mention that my local record stores had a very limited amount of the music I enjoy and it was way more expensive than the mainstream popular music. I had to order certain CD’s and some where just impossible to get a hold of.

Thankfully, circumstances have changed dramatically from when I first started downloading mp3’s roughly 15 years ago. I have access to Spotify Premium and I can order almost any album I want of Amazon. I can even support bands directly by purchasing mp3’s, t-shirts and special editions of albums directly from certain bands. All this without the typical middleman that used to have a big say in what products where available to me. Thanks to the internet I have been introduced do metal bands from the Faroe Islands, Brazil, Israel, India, Japan and China just to name a few examples. I consider myself very fortunate compared to a lot of heavy metal fans abroad. Fans in Iran, Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian countries only have access to heavy metal through piracy and the smuggling of albums.

But unlike in countries with authoritarian regimes, the main reason it seams to be fine to violate people’s basic human rights in the western world is copyright infringement. Internet censorship in western countries is mainly limited to websites like thepiratebay.org. Now there is no real debate that copyright infringement does happen through services like The Pirate Bay but there is also plenty of perfectly legal non-copyrighted material being shared there. Why should The Pirate Bay and sites like it be singled out, either all sites that facilitate copyright infringement should be censored or none of them should. By that logic Google and Dropbox are just two examples of billion dollar companies that should be censored for facilitating copyright infringement. You need only type in the word “torrent” along with the title of a movie on Google to find a link to download a movie for free.

So what are the real world consequences of going after The Pirate Bay and not Google? One of them is that net neutrality faces a serious threat from certain companies that would benefit from internet slow lanes. A large proportion of internet traffic today goes through peer to peer networks, which is one of the main ways that people use to share files. Among those files is of course copyrighted material. The traffic through these services is so heavy that some regulators want to allow ISP’s to decide how much bandwidth is allowed to go through for example The Pirate Bay or Youtube. It means that big ISP’s will decide for you weather the speed of your internet is used for VOD or Youtube.

The consequences of changing the rules on net neutrality will be that the internet will start looking and feeling a lot more like radio or television. All the small things we have come to know and love about the internet will slowly disappear. Your favorite Youtube channel will cease to exist and before you know it, companies will start a bidding war for more bandwidth. I haven’t heard much heavy metal in the radio or on television recently and that is why I prefer the current model of the internet, with all the diversity and enjoyment it has to offer.

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