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Firm Hires Students to Tattle on Peers Pirating Music


"equivalent of do good hall monitors ratting you out to teachers when you're ditching class."

With little movement on anti-piracy legislation and a growing sense in some groups that some intellectual property on the web should be considered free, record labels are taking copyright protection of their content into their own hands hiring a company to do the work for them.

The company, proMedia, in turn is hiring its best scouts to catch those pirating music and video from the web. Who better to track down these content pirates -- comprised mostly of a younger generation -- than their own peers. The Spiegel Online (English translation here) reports the company has hired 35 students to rat out others who are illegally downloading content. The Hamburg-based firm was hired by the Federal Association of Music Industry, which is part of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and therefore includes Sony Universal, Warner and other music labels, to pull IP addresses of people who offer copyrighted music files illegally.

"Peter" is one of them. His job, Spiegel reports, is to "mingle with the crowds and find out the names of the pirates who offer music for piracy." Gizmodo explains it as having to "crawl and comb through forums, blogs and file hosting sites" to find those engaging in the nefarious activity.

Acknowledging the criminal nature of downloading copyrighted material illegally, Gizmodo writes it is of course bad but likens this practice as "equivalent of do good hall monitors ratting you out to teachers when you're ditching class."

Still, it should be noted the "students" tattle-tales are really in their 20s, and, as Peter points out, getting caught is "their own fault."

"I do not think much of the politics of the pirates," a 26-year-old proMedia employee named "Peter" said, explaining many of those who engage in illegal downloading believe the content should be free anyway. For him, it's personal. "As a musician myself, I feel degraded by them.”

The politics of pirates have become ever more apparent as an actual political party -- the Pirate Party -- has been gaining popularity in Germany. Members of this party have even recently been elected to parliament and with that saying "we are a party to be taken seriously in Germany."

The U.S. has a pirate party as well with the goals of striving to "reform laws regarding copyright and patents." It als supports a "strengthening of the right to privacy, both on the Internet and in everyday life, and the transparency of state government."

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