If you can’t beat pirates, join them. This is Playlouder’s philosophy, a music download service that allows subscribers to download music from BitTorrent and other filesharing networks, while reimbursing the copyright owners. The concept sure is interesting, but the current setup is naive, flawed and doomed to fail.
Reports about the new and upcoming legal P2P service “Playlouder” are all over the news – again. Just like three years ago, Playlouder co-founder Paul Sanders manages to generate buzz for his legalized filesharing service. “We are confident that we will have something quite good to announce in the next couple of months,” he said, claiming that his company made a deal with one of the top ISPs in the UK.
The idea is simple; Playlouder plans to offer subscribers of one of the larger ISPs in the UK a service that will allow them to pirate as much music as they want, for a flat fee. Customers will be allowed to use the BitTorrent sites and filesharing applications they are used to. Through Deep Packet Inspection, Playlouder will check what tracks you download, so they can pay the rights holder accordingly.
The idea of creating a service where users can use BitTorrent sites without having to worry about legal repercussions is interesting. However, despite 5 years of development, the Playlouder team is overlooking some of the most basic features of file-sharing, which will render the service useless. Playlouder will allow its subscribers to download content from BitTorrent, but they won’t allow them to share the files with others who do not use the service. This restriction is needed because they want to prevent copyright infringement, but it causes a few problems too.
Thou shalt share
The number one rule for BitTorrent users is: Share. If you don’t share – upload files to others – your download speeds will reduce dramatically. This means that it could take hours instead of minutes to download an album from your favorite BitTorrent site. What Playlouder will offer is a highly degraded version of BitTorrent, and subscribers will not be able to get the great download speeds they are so accustomed to.
Torrent sites are not too fond of people who aim to abuse the system. It wouldn’t surprise me if most trackers ban Playlouder customers from accessing the service, as they will seriously hurt the download speed of the swarm, and thus the average downloader. What they’re technically offering is a Freeleech service, one which doesn’t share back to the community. Together with the decreased download speeds, this means that Playlouder users will not get to enjoy the BitTorrent experience that everyone else gets. In fact, it will be almost impossible for them to download anything from BitTorrent.
Another issue, not so much related to the user experience, is that Playlouder will not be able to track what people are downloading when they enable protocol header encryption. A significant number of BitTorrent users are using encryption to prevent ISPs from throttling their traffic, but since encryption obfuscates the protocol headers, Playlouder can’t track what their users are downloading. This then means that artists and labels will not be fully compensated for the tracks these users download.
Let us be clear, we do encourage the search for new business models here at TorrentFreak, where ideally, both artists and consumers benefit. However, in its current form the Playlouder service is not going to be a great success, if it is more than just another “vaporshare” service in the first place.