Redefining the war

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USA today has an interesting column about the ongoing "war against filesharing".

“I think the best policy is to declare victory and leave,” said Senator George Aiken (R , Vermont) during the Vietnam war. I think that’s a policy the entertainment industry is adopting in its ongoing battle against peer-to-peer file sharing.

Aiken’s point, for those of you light on history, is that when the war is unwinnable, you simply redefine “victory” and get the heck out.
This logic would explain why the recording industry keeps saying that illegal file sharing is almost finished, yet the amount of stuff available on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks remains staggering.

Maybe in their collective minds the folks at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have redefined victory. My suggestion would be to celebrate when legal downloads surpass hard-copy CD sales and forget about the pirates, but that’s just me.

Just this week came another nail-in-the-coffin announcement: BitTorrent, one of the most popular file-sharing protocols, had struck a deal with Hollywood to go legit.
To an uninformed person — or a person being informed by the wrong people — stories like that might make it seem that peer-to-peer file sharing is being pounded out of existence. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Many a news story was written about the ‘major defeat’ suffered by the file-sharing industry. Many a news story was wrong. It’s all about the spin… and declaring victory.

Reality check

So now we have the latest news: BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen and his deal with Hollywood. No longer would you be able to find pirated content via BitTorrent’s site. (It sports a search engine for torrents, which are the ‘pointers’ to files available for downloading.)

The Associated Press bought the entertainment industry’s line that this would have the effect of “effectively frustrating people who search for illegal copies of films.”

Um, no.

The story also said that “The agreement with Cohen would not prevent determined Internet users from finding movies or other materials using tools or websites other than Cohen’s, but it removes one of the most convenient methods people have used.”

Um, no.

If users want to find torrents, pointing to legal content or otherwise, there’s a long list of sites they can use.

Once again, what’s a drop in a very large bucket is being hailed as a victory against file-sharing. It’s not.

Napster is run out of business. Grokster and StreamCast lose in court. BitTorrent goes legit. None of these things matter a whit in terms of piracy because the software and the technology used to make it is still out there … and new products are coming out all the time.

The entertainment industry certainly wants people to think that each bit of news is yet another nail in the coffin of music and movie piracy.

The reality is something else entirely.

On SourceForge, the clearinghouse of open-source software, five of the top 10 downloads — including the top three — are file-sharing programs.

At Torrentspy, one of many BitTorrent-indexing sites, there are 141,651 torrents available. Each represents a song or a movie or an image or a piece of software. And Torrentspy isn’t the largest.

At The Pirate Bay, there’s a section where you can view the top 100 files downloaded in a host of categories — movies (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), music (Madonna’s Confessions On A Dance Floor), software, games, even audio books.

The site even sports a section of legal threats against it from the likes of Apple, Dreamworks, Microsoft, and Warner Brothers — threats it ignored, as its based in Sweden and what it does (index files, not actually keep them) is perfectly legal there.

One response to Electronic Arts read in part, “Unlike certain other countries, such as the one you’re in, we have sane copyright laws here. But we also have polar bears roaming the streets and attacking people :-(.”

Does that sound like piracy is dying?


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