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OPLIN 4Cast #271: BitTorrent and the law

Posted in 4cast

After last week’s 4cast about possible legal issues for Pinterest users, we thought it might be interesting to look at the legal issues surrounding BitTorrent. Everybody knows that BitTorrent is bad, right? After all, if you do a Google search that has the word “torrent” in it, you’ll repeatedly see the notice, “In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed results from this page.” Well, things aren’t always what they seem, and BitTorrent in itself is not evil. The problem (as with Pinterest) is in the way people use it.

  • What is BitTorrent? (wiseGEEK/R. Kayne and L. S. Wynn)  “The idea behind BitTorrent is to allow massive distribution of popular files without penalizing the source by soaring bandwidth costs and possible crashes due to demand that exceeds the capability of the server. In this way, anyone who creates a popular program, music file or other product can make it available to the public regardless of assets, even if the file becomes highly popular.”
  • In world of copyright craziness, BitTorrent, Inc. soars to new heights (Ars Technica/Jon Brodkin)  “In the middle of all these warring groups—or perhaps more accurately, completely removed from them—stands BitTorrent, Inc., a company whose technological innovation gave the Internet important new capabilities, making it easier for everyone to share files, both legally and illegally. Although the word ‘BitTorrent’ is often used in context with the word ‘piracy,’ the company itself has steered clear of legal problems by avoiding any distribution of unlicensed content, and narrowing its focus to delivering the best Internet file-sharing technology it’s capable of building.”
  • Study: BitTorrent piracy doesn’t significantly hurt box office revenue (DailyTech/Michael Hatamoto)  “U.S. consumers are more likely to head to the theater to watch a movie, even with numerous piracy options available. Additionally, there is no direct correlation between movie availability on BitTorrent and in-theater movie releases, despite the availability of cam releases and DVD screeners for free via the Internet. However, international consumers are more likely to choose piracy over the box office, because of a lack of viewing options overseas.”
  • BitTorrent Live: Cheap, real-time P2P video streaming that will kill TV (TechCrunch/Josh Constine)  “Today, Bram Cohen, the author of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer sharing protocol, demoed his latest creation at the SF MusicTech Summit. BitTorrent Live lets any content owner or publisher stream video to millions of people at good quality and with just a few seconds of latency…for free or cheap. Sports, news events, simulcast TV shows, education, video conferencing, or uncensored war zone broadcasts — this technology will power the future of video.”

Bandwidth fact:
People using the BitTorrent protocol currently account for about 20% of all Internet bandwidth use.