BitTorrent keeps file-sharing going strong

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      Ellis Ly has amassed an eclectic catalogue of movies and TV shows on his computer. Over the years, he’s used dozens of peer-to-peer file-sharing programs and systems to download content. The Simon Fraser University computing-science student says that over the years he’s come to prefer BitTorrent.

      “I do recommend people use it,” Ly told the Georgia Straight by phone. “There are good [BitTorrent] applications out there. And most of them are all open-source, so it doesn’t cost you anything.”

      The BitTorrent protocol arrived on the Internet in 2001, around the time that Napster, the pioneering file-sharing service, shut down after losing a legal battle with the music industry. According to an October report by Sandvine, an Ontario-based network-equipment company, BitTorrent is now the dominant file-sharing protocol “everywhere except Latin America”.

      Using BitTorrent is relatively simple. Floating around the Internet are copies of myriad movies, TV episodes, and songs. Through a BitTorrent search engine, such as the Pirate Bay, people find links to them and then use free software, like Vuze, to download the files. The more people “seeding” a particular file from their computer back onto the web, the faster the downloads.

      Even though peer-to-peer file-sharing systems offer copyrighted material, that hasn’t stopped BitTorrent from flourishing.

      “Since elementary school, even kindergarten, we were taught that sharing is caring. So what exactly is wrong to share what we have with others?” Ly said. “File-sharing is something that everyone can get ahold of. It’s just that there are a lot of people out there that are still not aware of it, but it’s not that hard to use.”

      Although Ly favours BitTorrent for sharing files on the Internet, there are alternatives. Millions turn to peer-to-peer network Gnutella to share files through software like the now-defunct LimeWire.

      LimeWire was one of the most popular file-sharing applications until it shut down in October. That’s when more than a dozen record companies, including Warner Bros. Records, won a court injunction in the U.S. ordering it to cease operations because copyrighted material was being shared on the service without their permission.

      Soon after LimeWire’s servers went dormant, clones like FrostWire began to fill the void.

      Vancouver-based isoHunt has had its share of legal woes. The site functions as a search engine that allows peer-to-peer users to connect with each other and find BitTorrents to download. In December 2009, a U.S. court ruled that the site was infringing on copyright laws and demanded that it shut down.

      “In the U.S., we are going to appeal,” isoHunt founder Gary Fung told the Straight by phone. “Right now, there is not much to say than the appeal is getting started. In Canada, we are also fighting the Canadian recording industry, and we are also starting [legal] action in that.”

      Fung insists that his site operates as a search engine like Google and that the company can’t control the nature of the content found through it. He believes information should flow freely online.

      “File-sharing gives people the freedom to share what they want,” Fung said. “File-sharing is logically the next step in the Internet’s evolution, in the sense that it decentralizes distribution. Anyone that wants to distribute can distribute whatever they want.”

      According to Fung, although there has been bad blood between file-sharing services and the film, television, and music industries, in the end everyone will have to kiss and make up.

      “File-sharing will become more mainstream and all the lawsuits being launched against users or people like us, the technologists, well, we will have to find a way to reconcile our differences,” Fung said. “And find a new means of distributing content not just for independents but for the big companies that are suing us.”

      While big companies are not on board with free access to their copyrighted material, they are cuddling up to the iTunes Store as a means of selling their content digitally. Since 2003, more than 10 billion songs have been sold through Apple’s online media store.

      Richard Rosenberg, professor emeritus of computer science at the University of British Columbia, told the Straight more and more people are willing to pay for content. He believes it will continue to get harder for people to share copyrighted content online.

      If the federal Conservative government’s Bill C-32—which seeks reforms to Canada’s Copyright Act that are favoured by the music and film industries—becomes law, he would be right. In the future, Rosenberg said file sharers will have to get used to the idea of buying content from online stores.

      “The business world is not going to be sleeping,” Rosenberg said by phone from his Vancouver home. “The bigger it [file-sharing] gets and the more of a threat it becomes to traditional marketplaces, the more effort is devoted to passing laws and creating structures which allow people who think they should or who created the material to control it.”

      However, Fung maintained that every time one file-sharing service is killed, another will replace it.

      “With any file-sharing site you try to shut down, a new file-sharing site is bound to pop up, and that has happened in the past—with Napster, then Kazaa,” Fung said. “There is no way you can shut file-sharing down.”



      Mark Fornataro

      Jan 28, 2011 at 7:22am

      Re:“ 'Since elementary school, even kindergarten, we were taught that sharing is caring. So what exactly is wrong to share what we have with others?' Ly said." What exactly is wrong with it, is that if its copyrighted material, its theft, as the courts have declared repeatedly. And as a composer I have a big problem with it. Furthermore Mr Ly 'since elementary school, even kindergarten' we have been told 'thou shalt not steal'.


      Jan 28, 2011 at 12:41pm

      Nie try Mark, but you industry trolls need a new line. Sharing, by definition, is not stealing. Copyright infringement is not stealing. The courts have NEVER convicted based on stealing, but on copyright infringement. You shills have been trying to equate "sharing" with "stealing" ever since this debate began in a deliberate attempt to cloud the issue with emotional arguments. The "sharing is stealing" is a corporate meme, one that is based on the fallacious argument that every file shared is a lost sale. Not the case. And if you, as an artist, have a problem with it, maybe you should talk to you fellow artists who are using the medium to their advantage instead of pissing and moaning about it.


      Jan 28, 2011 at 1:05pm

      The record industry is trying to keep a 1950's business plan alive in in the 21st century through threats and intimidation. Once they wake up and adjust to a new world people will steal less and buy more.


      Jan 29, 2011 at 12:09pm

      re: Mark Fornataro
      if sharing copyrighted material is "stealing", what of the artists who put their own work on bittorrent, in order to gain a larger audience?


      Jan 30, 2011 at 2:29pm

      The record industry is upset because with the advent of the internet they are no longer able to collect their under the table "payola" payments. I agree with Jim4420 their business plan is outdated and they are now scrambling with ways to keep the cash flowing. The industry has changed so much. An Artists can now do everything from the recording to distribution (via on-line) without a record company. Record Companies still have the advantage with distribution in a real (brick and mortar) store. But take a look around; it's getting harder to find a real record store. No one talks about the good of file sharing. I have been exposed to musical cultures and genre's from around the world that I would normally not have heard. A movie makes $22 million in over 1 weekend and 3 months later I can watch it for free on a web site sponsored by the movie studio! WTF? The bottom line is Record Companies are greedy.


      Jan 31, 2011 at 11:51am

      Fact is, you can do whatever you want with a file. So yes, you can infact, directly steal. Think about it; essentially this technology is hacking in its most simplistic form, which is breaching, stealing, invasion of privacy, piracy, etc. How is this not hacking or stealing?:
      Downloading an entire album that was released that day or month or year at the highest bitrate (sound quality) and then burning it to a disc and listening in your car or putting it on at a party.
      Downloading a full movie in 720p from a Blue Ray rip, having people over and then showing it to everyone.
      There was not one financial transaction. Anyone in the business world should appreciate this comment.
      FYI: I myself download GIGs of MP3's and HD movies daily. The difference is I don't sugar coat what I am doing or deny reality.


      Feb 2, 2011 at 7:11am

      Mark - great to see you speaking out - too bad so many so-called music fans just don't get it.
      SciFi: This is all about choice. If an artist wants to share their work online in some free forum - that is their right. If they don't - then they have a right to offer it for the price they feel it's worth. It's like any other product. Ultimately consumers decide whether they want to buy it at that price or not. But they don't have a right to steal it.
      Piracy takes legitimate sales out of the system - revenue which is used to put back into the creation of new music, new movies, new television shows. How do you think this material gets funded? How do you think artists pay songwriters like Mark? And here's another fact - so many people say artists should earn money through touring and merch sales - so how about the songwriter or composer? You don't see their name on a t-shirt. Touring doesn't benefit the professional songwriters. If fact, there is an army of people behind every creative product - people who need to get paid - people who are good at what they do - real people - a million in Canada according to the government. By stealing content you're taking money right from their pockets.


      Feb 2, 2011 at 7:17am

      A note about Isohunt.
      This story says, "Fung insists that his site operates as a search engine like Google and that the company can’t control the nature of the content found through it."
      Here are a couple quotes from the US federal court judgement against IsoHunt:
      The court found “evidence of intent to induce infringement is overwhelming and beyond dispute.” The court concluded that IsoHunt and other affiliated sites “engaged in direct solicitation of infringing activity”, and that their “business model depends on massive infringing use”.
      So, far from trying to "control" the content, IsoHunt was found to "solicit" it.

      Julius Kelp

      Feb 2, 2011 at 7:38am

      Same old comments here from those trying to justify taking other people's work for free, so I'll respond in kind:
      @Jim4420 - Actually the industry has licensed over 400 services, ranging from a la carte downloads such as Itunes to subscription models like Rdio, internet radio options, satellite radio, to free (ad supported) models like Spotify and VEVO. But I can understand why it's easier for you to put the blame on the industry rather than just admit you pirate because it's free and easy and you don't care if the creators get paid.
      @SciFi - If a creator wants to distribute their work for free, all the power to them. It's when that choice is taken away from them that I have a problem. I also think if there were less illegal downloading, the creators who CHOOSE to share their product for free could actually benefit from the promotional aspect, but as long as it's the Wild West and sites like Fung's give everything away, these models have a hard time getting a foothold.
      @Bellatrix76 - It must be easy to win arguments in your head when you label everyone who disagrees with you as a troll or a shill.
      @DS3000 - You clearly don't understand what payola means.
      @TechGuy - All I can say is at least you don't sugarcoat your theft like those above, but you're still part of the problem.
      @Mark Fornataro - Cheers to you. Figures that the only one commenting on here without a pseudonym would be the most reasonable.
      To Ellis Ly, the proud pirate who gave the interview in the article: what will it take to get you to stop your parasitic behavior and actually contribute to those who create the entertainment you enjoy?


      Feb 2, 2011 at 8:25am

      “Since elementary school, even kindergarten, we were taught that sharing is caring. So what exactly is wrong to share what we have with others?” Ly said.

      Mark Fonataro's response is hitting the nail on the head.

      I doubt very much Ly and Fung would have the same attitude if they were expected to work for free? Disgusting.