Football League’s Piracy Tracking Computer Now Helping to Beat COVID-19

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Spanish football league La Liga is using its piracy tracking 'supercomputer' to help fight the coronavirus. Since there are no football matches during the current lockdown, the anti-piracy machine is mostly serving the Folding@home project now. Unfortunately, however, not all copyright holders are equally supportive.

With millions of fans all over the world, Spain’s football league ‘La Liga’ is one of the most popular in the game.

Like other sports organizations, the organization has a dedicated anti-piracy team that actively tracks and reports unauthorized live streams.

In recent weeks, however, there haven’t been any live football games to protect. As in many other parts of the world, all La Liga matches have been put on hold to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

This means that many of La Liga’s antipiracy resources are unused. Not just personnel, but also a supercomputer with the nickname ‘Demogorgonin’, which is located at the League’s headquarters in Madrid.

The supercomputer in question is reported to be 4,232 times as powerful as regular desktop machines. Normally, it is used to track pirate live streams, but now it is mostly fighting COVID-19.

La Liga’s engineers and IT experts previously came up with the idea to lend out processing capacity to Folding@home, a distributed computing project that has been going for nearly two decades. With donated computer resources from all over the world, the project aids important medical research.

“We have engineers, IT experts, people who know the systems so well and they thought: ‘Look, we can hand this over, we haven’t got games every day — Barcelona aren’t on every day,'” La Liga technician Emilio told ESPN.

Initially, La Liga’s spare computer resources were used for cancer research, but this has now been switched to COVID-19.

“We were helping investigations into cancer. But then when all this happened, attention shifted and we handed it over to fight against coronavirus,” Emilio explained.

La Liga is not alone in this. At the start of the year there were 30,000 computers connected to the Folding@home network. This has now grown to more than a million, according to an NVIDIA report.

With all this computing power the researchers aim to better understand how COVID-19 virus proteins contribute to the disease, to hopefully help find useful remedies. This process has previously led to success with other diseases.

La Liga and all other participants should of course be applauded for their work. That also includes the German Pirate Party, The Pirate Society, Torrent Invites, and many others.

In this case, copyright resources are usefully being redirected to help medical specialists. Unfortunately, however, the same can’t be said for all rightsholders.

Last week Reason reported that biomedical technicians are actively ignoring copyright law to fix medical devices.

Manufacturers often don’t allow third parties to tinker with their products, which ignited all sorts of DIY crowdsourcing initiatives. A prime example is Franks’s Hospital Workshop, which is operated by a technician from Tanzania. In recent weeks, his site has been overwhelmed with traffic.

To lift this pressure, iFixit started a new initiative to help gather manuals and other technical information about medical devices, which can save lives, especially now.


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