Last Wednesday the Digital Economy Bill was forced through by the UK Government. Under the new law copyright holders have the power to spy on those who infringe their rights, which may ultimately lead to file-sharers being disconnected from the Internet. In addition, copyright holders can urge the Government to close websites without the hassle of going through the courts.
Despite these new powers awarded to copyright holders, it is unlikely that they will stop heavy file-sharers from continuing what they’ve been doing for so long. The problem with using technology to fight technology is that it’s only a matter of time before the latter catches up with the former.
It has already been shown numerous times that DRM has not prevented anyone from sharing files, and the Digital Economy Act – with all the extra powers it gives to copyright holders – wont be successful either.
For those who don’t want to give up their habit of downloading copyrighted material, there are simply dozens of ways to download music and movies without being at risk. Much like DRM, the Act will not stop tech savvy file-sharers, it will only change the rules of the game.
Listed below are a few ways how file-sharers will easily avoid the measures that have been introduced by the new legislation.
A Simple Trick
For those who use BitTorrent to share files, there is one really simple trick to avoid being tracked by many copyright holders. Since all of the tracking software we’re aware of today use BitTorrent trackers to gather data, one can simply remove the tracker(s) before downloading and rely on DHT and PEX instead.
DHT and PEX are supported by all the major BitTorrent clients nowadays and users will be able to download just as quickly as they are used to. Instead of going through a central tracker, DHT and PEX allow BitTorrent users to get all the information they need from the swarm, and avoid the prying eyes of many anti-piracy outfits by doing so.
Although monitoring DHT is harder than using the BitTorrent trackers to gather ‘evidence’, it is not impossible. But since the leading BitTorrent tracking organization Dtecnet has no clue about DHT, we assume that it might take a while before their evidence gathering techniques are updated.
For a few pounds a month file-sharers can circumvent the Digital Economy Act entirely with a VPN. These services offer an encrypted tunnel between your home connection and an external server and will exchange your IP-address for one in another country where UK laws don’t apply. Besides avoiding being tracked by anti-piracy outfits, a VPN will also allow access to all of the sites that may be blocked under the new legislation.
There are thousands of VPN services available on the Internet. Itshidden is a popular one among BitTorrent users, but Hidemyass and Swiss VPN have received positive reviews as well. The Pirate Bay folks offer one of the cheapest solutions, they launched their Ipredator VPN a year ago after Sweden passed their new anti-piracy law.
What hasn’t been mentioned too often is that the Digital Economy Act only targets a select group of file-sharers – those who upload material. It is expected that BitTorrent and Gnutella-based applications such as Limewire will be the main targets, simply because they are the easiest to monitor.
However, there are several other ways to download copyrighted content on the Internet. Usenet providers offer premium download services that cannot be monitored easily, and as we mentioned in a previous article, there are also hundreds of MP3 search engines that allow users to download files directly on their computers without being tracked.
The bottom line is that no matter what legislation governments introduce, it is doubtful that it will have an effect on heavy file-sharers or those that can be bothered to spend 30 minutes using Google. It might deter some novice file-sharers, but the question is at what expense? As The Guardian rightfully notes today, the Act might lead to hundreds or thousands of people losing their connection based on false evidence. Is that worth it?