Wil Wheaton Reminds Us That Torrents Are Awesome, And Not Just For Pirated Movies

from the targeting-the-tool dept

The conflation of tools and technologies with the ways people use them is a big problem in the copyright debate. One of the many, many examples is the way the anti-piracy crowd treats "torrent" as a dirty word. Google endorsed this last year when they started dropping it from their search autocomplete results, and as Mike pointed out at the time, just imagine they had done the same with "mp3" a few years ago when that was supposedly synonymous with piracy. Defenders of this kind of filtering don't take such a forward-thinking stance, and their typical response in the torrent debate is to assert that the majority of BitTorrent traffic is likely infringing. Of course, that's not really the point: you don't look at the ratio of infringing use to legal use, but rather at the legal use by itself—if it's substantial and meaningful, then you have to go after the infringing users, not the technology as a whole.

Torrents have many legitimate uses. BitTorrent is simply a good protocol for sharing large files with large groups—they are perfect for films, video games, music and of course software. Linux distros are a commonly cited example, since they are always available by (perfectly legal) torrent, but this is often brushed off as if it's an excuse and torrents are not really necessary for this. Geek icon Wil Wheaton puts a bullet in this notion with a recent post on his blog, clearly demonstrating why he turned to BitTorrent for a copy of Ubuntu:

One of the things that drives me crazy is the belief in Hollywood that bittorrent exists solely for stealing things. Efforts to explain that this is not necessarily true are often met with hands clamped tightly over ears, accompanied by "I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA."

As an example of the usefulness of bittorrent for entirely legal purposes, I present the following comparitive images:

In case you can't see, the torrent is going about six times faster than a direct download, needing less than 10 minutes as compared to nearly 45. It's a simple example, but an effective one: P2P sharing is simply better sometimes. Google prides itself of directing people to the best possible information, but when their users start searching for the latest version of Ubuntu or the new Counting Crows album, they won't see autocomplete suggestions for this perfectly legal (and potentially superior) means of obtaining what they want. Seems like that runs directly counter to Google's mission. It may only be a minor annoyance, but it's also pointless, and it will only get worse as more and more people embrace torrents for legitimate distribution.

Filed Under: bittorrent, linux, wil wheaton

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  1. identicon
    Shadeyone, 16 May 2012 @ 7:30pm

    A road is not the same thing as the car that drives on it

    I think the main problem is that BitTorrent is associated immediately with stolen files, free things that others think you should pay for and dirty pictures.

    What it is, is a transportation system for files and data, that's it. Since the files are called torrents, it's associated with the system. The files can be useful, time-wasting, illegal or malicious. But the same can be said for anything you regularly download off the internet, so you know what, we should probably get rid of the internet so you don't hurt yourself with those evil data packets out there.

    There's a bad driver out there who gets drunk, gets in his/her car, drives on the road and hits someone. Do we stop using roads, do we shut down streets and freeways becasue they are dangerous, do we condemn car manufacturers for creating this vehicle(data file)? No, we condemn and prosecute the person who operated the vehicle (the creator of the data file or torrent file). But only him, we don't do that to all the good drivers out there driving safely.

    I know, Iknow, but Shadey Hollywood and others go after the dirty, rotten stinking pirates out there, aren't they trying to keep us safe? You can argue about that, but they don't do it the same way we do in every other situation, why do they get a free ride? Is it because they brought us classics like Gigli, Troll 2, From Justin to Kelly, Santa Claus conquers the Martians and many others great cinematic gems?

    I guess the point I was trying to make at the beginning of this before it got away from me, is that BitTorrent as a system is not illegal, it is not wrong and it is not damaging. It is a tool, a tool that is useful and one of the best options out there right now. To not use it is incredibly stupid and puts you behind others who use it to their business advantage.

    Further proof that the protocol has a place, the creator has been working to adapt it for live video streaming to cut costs.


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