iTunes won't put an end to piracy
With Hong Kong being so well-connected when it comes to the latest gadgets and technology, it is astonishing that Apple's iTunes digital media store took so long to arrive. Nine years have elapsed since what has become the world's most popular online music retailer was launched. The unavailability of the service was a source of frustration for music and movie lovers and in part a reason for piracy. But while its rolling out in our city and 11 other Asian markets last week finally gives a legitimate avenue to obtain a wide range of titles, it will not put an end to illegal downloads. Stamping out the practice requires a society more educated about copyright, better surveillance and recording, and film companies attuned to the realities of the internet.
There are other legal download platforms and physical shops that sell CDs and DVDs, but they have meagre offerings. Labels and studios have stuck rigidly to regional licensing arrangements that have made obtaining digital titles outside Asia difficult or impossible. With so many people owning portable audio and video devices with high-speed internet connectivity, yet unable to obtain favourite songs or movies, piracy was inevitable. While downloading copyright material from websites and 'torrent' files has always been illegal, the lack of iTunes has, to some minds, made the practice legitimate.
The mere availability of iTunes will not in an instant change the nature of piracy, though. Illegal downloads are not moral, nor are they right, but they are as easy as a few clicks of a mouse. Even if offending websites are shut down and torrents outlawed, a new way will be found to make available copyright material. Hollywood and the music industry, by casting off backward thinking and recognising that the internet is a global means of distribution, will give less cause for temptation. Ultimately, though, it is how a society views piracy that holds the key to making the practice inexcusable.