June 11 marks an interesting turn of events here in Malaysia. Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has ordered Local ISPs to block 10 file sharing websites. The reason given was to curb the illegal downloads of movies. Although strangely, songs and software are not mentioned as being part of the reason behind the block.
The Sites blocked are:
What really shocks me is that MCMC is the national body which oversees multimedia and communications in Malaysia. Yet sadly they seem to lack the basic knowledge of how the internet works. Blocking any site on the net is a futile effort. There are tons of ways users can bypass ISP blocking, yet the national body which should understand how the internet works comes with the most basic and inefficient action.
Piracy is an economic problem. If the software, movie or song is being sold at a price that is too high; piracy will the viable alternative for the user to access the content. A movie being sold for RM 120 looks like a ripoff when the pirated copy is being sold at RM 10. A software being sold at RM 300 would seem like an illogical price point when a user could download it for free online.
So how does one fight piracy? Rather then taking the most obvious route, MCMC would have benefited more by introducing or at least suggesting innovative pricing solutions.
Why not create an online content distribution site exclusive for Malaysia? A content producer when selling a DVD includes his content production cost, distributor cost, and the DVD packaging & printing costs. The pirate on the other hand has only the DVD packaging & printing costs to handle with. Removing the distributor cost, and DVD packaging cost would afford the content creator to reduce the selling price to meet user expectations.
Create a portal to sell your contents online, include unique DRM (Digital Rights Management) to ensure only the user who purchases can use it, include limited sharing capabilities, and make exclusive deals with content producers to get new content online fast. What do you have? A legitimate alternative to piracy as well as a tool that leverages on the internet's strength. And is this really a new idea? Of course not!
This is the idea behind many of the international content distribution websites. Was it so hard to come up with the idea? No it wasn't. All you had to do is search for better alternatives and emulate the idea for local consumption. It wasn't too hard was it? I would have have expected MCMC to at least put some minimal effort and research before choosing their action.
The single word to describe this whole debacle? Disappointing.