Via Techdirt; Andrew Lloyd Webber has apparently condemned the Internet (yup, the whole thing) as "the Somalia of unregulated theft and piracy".
It's a fascinating claim, and over at Techdirt Mike has already demolished the wilder misconceptions about the Internet and music business models that it implies.
But the claim also belies a curiously one-sided and ultimately misleading view of Somalian piracy. There is, of course, a simplified view of the Somalian naval situation in which evil pirates seize peaceful international shipping and hold it to ransom. So far, so obviously over-simplified as to offer no insights at all. A rather more nuanced view of at least some of Somalia's "pirates" - see eg here in the Independent - points out that much of their activity concentrates on protecting Somalian waters and interests from foreign companies dumping nuclear waste and stealing much-needed seafood off the Somalian coast. Others have pointed out that the so-called pirates have taken on the role of coast-guards (an official function not carried out by the state in decades) in order to prevent arms smuggling. Sure, some of them are just bandits. It is equally clear that many are not, and are ordinary people who have taken up arms to defend Somalia in absence of any sort of formal naval protection.
Begin to sound at all familiar? Sure, there are people who just download music off the Internet because it's free and they don't want to have to pay for it. But the situation, like the situation off the Somalian coast, is vastly more complicated and richer than that single view, and many of those branded "pirates" are actually trying to carry out a valuable public services. In fact, Andrew Lloyd Webber may have had a point.
If only he knew.