Ducking the On-line Piracy Issue

DDuckPay close attention so you can follow all this: the Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeitung has this coverage of a news report from the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter about a new entry in the Swedish Donald Duck comic series (he’s called “Kalle Anka” there), published by Egmont K√§rnan AB, with an interesting plot-twist. You can even follow all the comic-strip action on the article’s webpage, if you can read Swedish or are just very good at interpreting the pictures. (Just click from cartoon-panels 1 through 4 using the left- and right-arrows you see at the lower-right.)

Actually, I find what’s going on a bit confusing. (I can only try to interpret the Swedish from the Danish that I do know.) Huey, Dewey, and Louie (German: Tick, Trick und Track; I can’t figure out their Swedish names) ask Uncle Donald for money to buy a CD they want; he refuses. He later hears them playing that CD anyway, and asks them where they got the money to buy it. They reply that they downloaded the music onto a CD “which we will have until we can buy the original.” Uncle Donald then gets a mischievous look and says something I can’t grasp, but the duck-triplets answer him with “No, that would be dishonest! There’s such a thing as copyright! The ones who wrote and played the music must have their daily bread!” But Uncle Donald proceeds with his dastardly plan anyway, which namely is to buy one sample of the legitimate original and then burn a whole bunch more copies of the CD and sell them, along with photocopied versions of the CD cover. But who should look through the window and catch him doing this but Uncle Scrooge (Onkel Dagobert in German; Farbror Joakim von Anka in Swedish), who of course owns the record company issuing the CD! It looks like Donald is set to pay a big fine for pirate-copying – except that in the end Uncle Scrooge agrees to let him off, as long as he promises never to do this sort of thing again. (Interestingly, Donald doesn’t actually promise; as the strip ends he’s just saying “Puh!”)

It’s all a big steaming hunk of record-industry propaganda, of course, insinuated into a Disney comic strip. (Although by its own terms it apparently is OK in Sweden to download that album you want once, as long as you sincerely intend to buy an original copy soon – that’s what I found confusing). And the reason why the Taz and DN are reporting it is not only for what it is, but also the fact that this comic was actually reported to Sweden’s consumer ombudsman’s office as “a dishonest and hidden advertising message,” all the worse because it is aimed at children.

The reaction to this accusation by Egmont chief Marika Bark to the DN was swift, apologetic, and conciliatory. Certainly her Donald Duck magazine does not desire to advocate any position in the ongoing controversy over the (in)famous Swedish BitTorrent site Pirate Bay, she declared. Elsewhere on the Net, people got busy taking Egmont’s comic strip panels and filling the dialogue-balloons in with text rather more friendly to the Pirate cause. (Unfortunately, the Taz provides too little information for me to be able to find any of these.) At the same time, though, as the German article points out, a new legal complaint has just been filed against the Pirate Bay, by none other than Disney acting in concert with other film companies, accusing the site of still making films available for illegal download.

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