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
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2012 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re:

    Humble Indie bundle distributes the bundle games over BitTorrent as well as over Steam.

    Which brings me to another point: distributing load.

    Bittorrent is great for distributing the load of a release, so that one server isn't taking the whole brunt of the distribution of the files being released. Ubuntu can release it on their server and BitTorrent at the same time, or any other company, and reduce bandwidth costs and server load. Its another one of the great things about BitTorrent as a protocol.

    This can be crucial for smaller companies, if they are paying for the amount of bandwidth they use in a month. One popular release could drain a bank account. In the case of the Indie Bundle, I certainly choose the BitTorrent option, hoping to save the Humble Bundle guys some cash so they can put out more great bundles.

    It is a great technology that takes full advantage of the protocols and standards the internet is based on.

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