As it states right at the top here, N2N is all about BOTH sides of the argument, so I feel duty-bound to post the reply from Frank Ahrens
Allow me to apologize for the mass reply, but this story generated a lot of
discussion, to put it mildly, and I wanted to get back to everyone who
wrote, even those who accused me of not knowing my asshole from my elbow
(which, by the way, is one of my favorite phrases).
The story was meant to shine a light on the U.S. government's increasing
involvement with U.S. entertainment industries and their joint efforts to
influence foreign governments to strengthen copyright laws--to the
satisfaction of U.S. companies--and crack down on what the U.S. government
and industries see as piracy.
It was not an endorsement or condemnation of the practice. It was not meant
to debate copyright law and whether rightsholders have their rights for too
long. That's a fine debate that reasonable people of both sides can
disagree on and perhaps a story for another day.
Early in the story, I incorrectly referred to Allofmp3.com as a
file-sharing sight. That was my oversight on final edit--I of course
realize it operates like iTunes--and I'm sorry I did not catch it. I
realize that factual errors can undermine a thesis but I hope you will not
devalue the story--which is about the activities of the U.S. government and
entertainment industry--because of this mistake.
As for The Pirate Bay, perhaps the Swedish authorities conducted a
ham-fisted raid and perhaps the dissemination vs. receiving of copyrighted
material debate is ongoing in Sweden. But in characterizing TPB, I relied
on the opinion of the Swedish minister of trade and economic affairs, who
called it illegal, and the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled
last year that the administrators of file-sharing networks may be held
responsible for ciminal activities of their users, which is clearly guiding
the Swedish authorities. As for the BitTorrent argument, saying that the
network does not carry copyrighted works but seeds to where those
copyrighted works reside strikes me as saying it's not illegal if you chop
up the Mona Lisa into 100 pieces and then tell people where those pieces
Finally, the Swedish police believed TPB was illegal enough to raid. If the
Swedish law of last year is overturned, then that's newsworthy to me down
As for Allofmp3.com, not only does the RIAA and MPAA but the MPA
(international) and IFPI (international) believe that even though it may
claim it is licensed by Russian authorities, that license and its guiding
authority are shams in the Wild West bazaar of Russian commerce. I tend to
As for the potential losses suffered by the music and movie industries
overseas, those are of course estimates but not without some empirical
evidence. I pressed both bodies on their calculations, which they compute
but surveying the market to find out what percentage of counterfeit
material is being sold and estimating the corresponding market value, i.e.,
what the music and movie companies would have made from those sales if they
were not pirated goods. A report from the Russian government earlier this
year, for instance, estimated that 70 percent of all CDs and DVDs sold in
Russia are counterfeit.
This is a large, growing and complex problem. I am not infallible but make
every attempt to make my stories as factually correct as possible, to get,
as a former colleague once said, "The best available version of the truth."
The ongoing conversation with readers through the Web greatly helps my
reporting and makes it smarter, as there are tons of readers who know more
about most topics than I do.
So I hope to keep up the dialogue and please allow me to encourage everyone
to keep it civil. Just as you say a mistake in one of my stories can cause
you to devalue the entire story, if someone starts off an e-mail to me by
calling me a name, or several, then I'm likely going to skip the rest of
your e-mail, possibly missing valuable information.
Media and entertainment industry reporter
The Washington Post