How Malware Saved The Music Biz From P2P

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Malware is the music industry’s saviour. I’ve just had an epiphany.

My laptop is in for repairs for the second time in three years. Both times I’ve had intensive malware presence on the computer – it took computer repair specialist Adam Blechman hours to get rid of all the viruses the first time, and this time he apparently almost had them infect his own computer! It cost me $300 to get things fixed the first time and I’m probably looking at a similar bill on this go-round.

While I can’t remember the circumstances of the first viruses getting on my computer, I’m 99% certain that peer-to-peer downloading caused the most recent flare-up. I wanted to watch episodes of Greek immediately, telling myself I would buy the season DVD later. Turns out those .rar files packed a [spiked] punch and I invited a bunch of viruses, trojans etc onto my computer.

You probably see where I’m going with this… By imposing friction and a measurable financial cost on people who use peer-to-peer downloading software, malware creators solve the music, movie and tv industry’s woes [at least, those due to peer-to-peer downloading].

One of three solutions seem possible:

  • There should be a greater willingness to pay for the authentic version from a reliable store like iTunes.
  • People who prefer to run the risk of getting viruses should be more likely to buy anti-virus software. These sales can be taxed and the taxes redistributed to the music biz, in the same way Canada has long had a tax on 8-inch tapes. Those taxes were imposed because people could record songs off the radio onto the tapes.
  • Folks who download P2P but refuse to get anti-virus and other security software will see their computers slow down into oblivion. They will then need to buy new computers, which can be taxed.

The last solution sucks for people who are already paying for anti-viruses and/or authentic songs (since they’re already paying for real songs or taxes on anti-virus software). But they’ll still pay this tax less often than people who keep destroying their computers with malware.

I find it interesting that this situation is the culmination of a “tragedy of the commons” type of situation. The free public resource that is P2P networking got leaned on by so many people that it became an attractive target for malware writers, who seek to build botnets on tens of thousands of computers. Hopefully I’ll have a bit more on that in the near future.

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  1. This is a big thing for me. I HATE the crap you find on public P2P networks. To avoid malware completely, you need to goto the private torrent sites or Usenet (i.e. ones that require INVITES or money to get onto). Not only is it legally safer, private sites only release the most quality stuff. I don't believe taxes and lawsuits are the right solution - they need a new business model.

    Comment by Rob Kingston - January 25, 2009 @ 10:18pm
  2. Didn't even know private networks existed. And even with those, I'm sure there are folks who've infiltrated them to seed junk (though I'm willing to concede that the overall quality : virus ratio is likely higher). What business model would you propose?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 26, 2009 @ 7:28pm
  3. Tough to say, really. Though it could be a combination of events, merchandise, special features, memberships, donations, advertising and product placement. There are lots of ways to make money.

    Comment by Rob Kingston - January 28, 2009 @ 9:20pm

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