BitTorrent Inc’s Pirate Dilemma, Fabrications and Delusions

Opinion

BitTorrent Inc is once again distancing itself from everything piracy related. The San Francisco company is lashing out against media reports which claim that Game of Thrones is the "King of BitTorrent." The question, however, is whether this aggressive stance is helping them out or if we're seeing the Streisand Effect in progress. Can BitTorrent Inc. ever shake its association with piracy while it shares its name with the world's most popular file-sharing mechanism?

crimeOver the past year or so BitTorrent Inc. has actively distanced itself from piracy on numerous occasions.

A few hours ago, another attempt was made, but one that might do more harm than good.

In a blog post BitTorrent’s Matt Mason, known for authoring “The Pirate’s Dilemma“, lashes out against media reporting on the massive popularity of Game of Thrones among BitTorrent users.

“The idea of a ‘BitTorrent Piracy Record’ is a complete fabrication. Because there’s actually no such thing as a ‘BitTorrent piracy record’. Because piracy happens outside the BitTorrent ecosystem,” BitTorrent Inc’s Matt Mason writes.

We see things differently.

The CNET article he refers to, including all the other numbers mentioned, come from TorrentFreak reports that are hard to dispute. The piracy record for example comes from public data reported by BitTorrent trackers, which everyone can confirm.

We at TorrentFreak, and many with us, clearly see BitTorrent trackers as an integral part of the BitTorrent ecosystem. In fact, BitTorrent Inc. itself uses these same public OpenBitTorrent and PublicBitTorrent trackers to help distribute their promo bundles, making them a core part of their business too. Nevertheless, Matt describes them in unflattering terms.

“These so-called ‘records’ are presumably based on numbers from pirate websites that have no affiliation with BitTorrent, Inc. If they’re corroborated using data from pirate websites, they’re ‘Internet Piracy Records’. They’re not ‘BitTorrent Piracy Records’,” Matt continues.

Again, we have to disagree.

These statistics come from the same trackers that BitTorrent Inc. uses and are specifically tied to the BitTorrent ecosystem, not the Internet in general. All downloads are coordinated by BitTorrent trackers and BitTorrent Inc’s very own DHT, and more than 50% of all downloads occur through software created by BitTorrent Inc.

In addition, it’s worth pointing out that the company recently collaborated with Pirate Bay founder Fredrik Neij to optimize the BitTorrent protocol and prevent these public trackers from being DDoSed.

Shifting the focus towards authorized downloads, Mason points out that the “Epic Meal Time” bundle received more downloads than the most pirated TV-show, Game of Thrones.

“We discovered that the real king of BitTorrent isn’t Game of Thrones. With 8,626,987 downloads, hands-down-most-downloaded show of 2013 via BitTorrent is Epic Meal Time; a show published into BitTorrent willingly and legally by the creators themselves. That’s nearly double the claimed downloads of the Game of Thrones finale,” Mason writes.

While this may be correct, it’s worth explaining how these downloads of the single two-minute-long Epic Meal Time video clip came to be. The clip was part of a BitTorrent bundle that came with each new download of the uTorrent and BitTorrent clients.

That’s comparable to giving away an MP3 with every iPhone and iPod sold, and then claiming that the artist who created it is the most popular in the world. It’s good PR but also a nonsense figure, as a file with random noise could have achieved similar results.

Don’t get me wrong, BitTorrent’s efforts and the massive download numbers for these artist-approved BitTorrent Bundles are great, but in our opinion it’s not really fair to make comparisons without mentioning how these numbers were reached.

TorrentFreak reached out to Matt Mason who explained to us that the company is trying to let people know that they are not responsible for any of the piracy that’s going on.

“Our aim was to create awareness that BitTorrent does not crown a piracy king. CNET’s suggestion that we do creates fear and uncertainty in the marketplace and unfairly lays the responsibility of copyright infringement on the technology. It’s a disservice to the public not to make it clear,” he says.

We wholeheartedly agree that the technology isn’t the propblem, just like one can’t blame a browser for cyberlocker downloads, BitTorrent Inc. has no say in what their users share and has never condoned piracy.

But let’s try to keep in touch with reality. Lashing out against the media and branding our well documented BitTorrent swarm record as a complete fabrication is not going to help. We’re seeing the first hints of the Streisand Effect in progress and fear for the worst.

BitTorrent is more than a company to the general public and it’s absolutely no secret that a lot of traffic transferred via the BitTorrent protocol is piracy related. This all happens out of BitTorrent Inc’s control, but guess what software many of these people use?

BitTorrent Inc. notes that torrent sites are the real problem. This may be true, but perhaps it’s worth highlighting that BitTorrent Inc. might not exist as the large company it is today without the existence of these sites. More than half of all people who download from these sites use BitTorrent Inc’s software clients, and the company generates healthy revenues from these users.

A pirate’s dilemma…

Our advice to BitTorrent Inc. is either to stop complaining about the fact that the term BitTorrent is often associated with piracy, or just change the name of the company.

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