According to the latest PC Pitstop figures, 15% of us have some sort of file sharing or torrent client on our computers. That’s down 4% from a high of 19% two years ago.
File sharing is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on since Bram Cohen wrote the first torrent protocol in April of 2001. The code allows users to connect using a torrent client to locate and share software. Download a client like Vuze or BearShare, search for a file and give the other client users permission to access and download files from your computer and vice versa. Because the software breaks the files in to little pieces, “chunks“, you can download from a user that does not have a completed file. The same holds true for them. Others can download your file, as “chunks” without waiting for the whole file to complete. This speeds up the process tremendously.
There is also nothing new about song writers and publishers crying about copyright infringement. That’s been going on since the beginning of broadcast music, AM//FM radios and reel to reel recorders. I still remember being told in the early 60’s that I couldn’t record music from the radio and then play it at a dance. I could only record the music from a purchased record. Whether or not that was fact I don’t know. I didn’t have much legal backing at 14.
Legal or Illegal
To be sure we’re on the same page let’s be perfectly clear: the file sharing protocol is legal but the sharing of copyrighted material is illegal.
The whole argument for and against the legality of file sharing is getting a little stale. The truth is that user needs define reality and what is taking place. As long as there are files available there will be someone wanting them for free.
It’s no surprise that what people consider legal and safe depends on their needs. If they need free software then it’s probably OK to grab some free software. if they like music, then it’s probably safe to download music. Strange how the legal and safe components seem to run hand in hand and are categorized as OK according to user need or whether they will get caught, or infected .
The arguments I hear for it being OK to download and share copyrighted files are: it’s safe if you know what your doing, everyone else is doing it, it’s the wave of the future, the artists and studios are making too much money, no way I’m paying a buck a song for 10,000 songs, they made enough money already on that movie, enough other people pay for it.
It’s really quite simple as long as you don’t let your wants over ride your conscience. If the song, software, or whatever is copyrighted, then it is illegal to acquire it by peer to peer sharing without paying for it. It doesn’t matter who you know that does it, it doesn’t matter if you can do it without getting infected, it’s illegal.
What’s The Hold Up
I’ve heard more than one person say that peer to peer file sharing is the future. It will be the predominate way we obtain data. While that may be true, you certainly have to wonder why the percentage of people using peer to peer hasn’t changed since it’s introduction. Compared to 5 years ago, there are many more users, many more clients, and probably many more songs and movies, yet, 15% seems to be the steady number of users for the past 5 years. The number of UK users is lower at about 10%. I would imagine that the percentage of users changes as you go from country to country depending on the resources and attitude of the authorities in that country. If you’re in a country that is a little more rough and tumble then I would expect a more cavalier attitude towards peer to peer sharing of music and movies.
Is it the laws and enforcement stopping people from using file sharing?
The prosecution of Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström of Pirate Bay fame in 2009, may have been a victory for publishers and writers at the time, but as predicted, replacements for Pirate Bay have sprung up by the 100’s. The sheer numbers of violators makes effective enforcement at the user level impossible. That is the reason that past efforts have targeted the torrent clients and not the users. A recent article from the American Bar Association ABAJOURNAL gives us a good example of this. This is similar to arresting store owners for selling pipes which could be used to smoke marijuana, even though what’s put in the pipe is up to the user.
So up until now the law has focused basically on clients because enforcement as far as users were concerned, was nonexistent. Is this attitude changing? It certainly is in Europe where laws are changing to require ISP’s to cut service to users who have received a certain number of warnings. It is unclear whether this will have the desired effect but it points out that the entertainment industry is not backing down.
If enforcement is nonexistent and the number of clients growing, then why is the use of torrent protocol and clients not rising? The popularity of music and portable players is certainly rising. Movies are bigger than ever before. Now there is even a market for TV shows. If everyone and his brother has an ipod, computer, or DVD player, why is the use of files sharing protocol flat or on the decline?
The answer is simple, infection, infection, infection. If you use torrents and file sharing your system will become infected. Notice I don’t say might, may, or could. It will become infected. The simple act of using the torrent is allowing another, compete access to your system. You are giving permission for others to access your computer. Maybe they are unaware that their system is infected. Maybe they are there only to infect your system. The intent doesn’t matter when you’re paying to have Windows reinstalled. None of us like being out of touch or unable to work because of an infected, non-functioning computer.
The plain and simple fact is that while many people have tried file sharing, they usually give it up because of the consequences of that action.
Not only is the practice of file sharing a huge risk, it’s not even worth the risk any more. The market is adjusting so that music and movies are more accessable. You can find music and movies cheaper than ever before. There’s just no reason to use peer to peer and share infections.
Will peer to peer file sharing continue? Absolutely it will. There is a never ending supply of young, uninformed, nonworking teens, ready to risk their parent’s computer in order to have free music, porn, and whatever else their little spoiled hearts desire.
Feel free to jump on me with both feet for that comment, but it’s true. I speak from experience repairing systems brought to a stand still because of peer to peer programs like Napster of 2001 fame, Grokster of 2001 fame, PirateBay, and BearShare. I know it’s not only teens using peer to peer files sharing but teens are the majority.
I also know that there is plenty of legal material to be shared and the amount of legal music, television, and movies is increasing But don’t be confused. For the moment, illegal is what drives peer to peer file sharing. Will that change in the future? I certainly believe it will, but only after the copyright laws and the money behind the entertainment industry allow it. Until then thugs will control file sharing. As long as it’s illegal, the risks remain high.
Maybe the real question should be, are you smart enough to use torrents to download files. Do you feel lucky? Do you?
BitTorrent = a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and it has been estimated that it accounted for roughly 27% to 55% of all Internet traffic.
BitTorrent client = any program that implements the BitTorrent protocol. Each client is capable of preparing, requesting, and transmitting any type of computer file over a network, using the protocol. A peer is any computer running an instance of a client.