Guest Op-Ed: Why I’m a Third-World File-Sharer

Bilal, a regular reader of ZeroPaid, shares his thoughts on piracy, observing that the entertainment industry’s outdated content distribution system means he gets a ‘sorry, this content is not available in your territory’ message on almost every music or video website he visits

I’ve been listening to music for as long as I had ears, literally. I remember (from my baby pictures of course) when I was 1 year old, my mom used to put a small radio next to my bed, n it on for me to sleep while listening to music, and I grew up appreciating that.

Fast-forward a few more years, looking at my father’s tape collection, a mix of Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin, Status Quo, and lots of old Maxell and red Sony mix tapes that I’m still clueless about their content names, made his catalog, but all I know is that they were the songs that changed my life, crafted long lasting memories and tunes into my head, and I would give my right arm to get these tapes back. Opening an old black tape case, pulling out the Maxell tape and putting it in the old cracky-noise-making stereo tape player that we had to listen to Bootsy Collins work his Bass Guitar, was and always will be a sparkling memory.

When my teenage years came, my friends used to come over to listen to the newest tapes. Of course, it was the time of being cool, less Pet Shop Boys, and more of Backstreet Boys. We used to exchange tapes, make copies and mix tapes for each other, that was the trend back then, that was the early 90s Facebook.

Of course that might sound like any of your childhood stories, well you better save them somewhere and tell them to your kids with a “once upon a time” at the beginning of your conversation.

If this would happen these days, my father would spend the rest of his life behind bars, and I would probably be in the cell next to him doing 5 to 10 years, and the Maxell graveyard would have been full with demolished tapes.

How do I listen to music 2 decades after my first tooth? Just like 95% percent of the earth’s population. Of course, my reasons could be different from any of them.

I live in a place, a doomed place should I say, called the “3rd World”, where we get the leftovers of the Western world, where we get to listen to Kasabian’s new album 6 months after the British do, and where we get the “sorry, this content is not available in your territory” message on almost every music or video website.

Retail stores such as Virgin Megastore, are the best place to buy the new Shakira album, but don’t even think of searching for Mingus Big Band Live at UCLA, you will only get a “huh?” answer from the people behind the counter.

Just to name a few, iTunes, Amazon MP3, and all other legal online music stores, are simply not available in this part of the world. And just for the record, their content, before last week, was DRM protected. Some songs on iTunes and Amazon MP3 have been made more expensive, from $0.99 to $1.29 a song.

Pandora was an amazing online radio, free and simple to use, but one day, they have decided that people outside the United States are not worthy listeners. Last.fm is another cool free online radio, but soon it will charge people outside USA, UK, and Germany for its services. Spotify is a new online radio that offers a huge library of music content, of course, you have to be “not” in this part of the world to be able to use it, even if you paid 99 Euros for the premium account.

So you tell me, where can I get the new PJ Harvey and John Parish album from?

I have worked for a major record label for a little less than two years, and believe me, everything made sense back then, but moving away from it made me realize how disconnected they are from the people, and from music fans. Just to listen to a song nowadays is considered a privilege, an achievement, how about buying it.

So the next time you talk about, what you call, piracy and how to fight it, I consider providing any original album of Steven Wilson’s Incredible Expanding Mindfunk, from any retailer in this region, a great step for mankind.

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**Thanks to Bilal, his last name I left purposely unmentioned, for taking the time to share your story with us. If any of you have file-sharing or P2P related stories you think readers will be interetsted in please submit to [email protected]**