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. icon
    tqk (profile), 16 May 2012 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, us in networking (which includes, yeah, companies selling Internet access) do use megabits all the time. Witness wired Ethernet speeds (10 megabits/s, 100 megabits/s, 1 gigabit/s, ...), wireless speeds (54 megabits/s, 150 megabits/s, 300 megabits/s, ...), and many many others.

    It also makes sense technically: the fundamental unit of information being transfered is the bit, not the byte.

    ... which is why you shouldn't be bothering with all those esoteric terms. They're too easy to obfuscate.

    A byte is traditionally 8, 16, 32, or 64 "bits" (1 or 0). For multiples, we tack on "Systeme International" (SI) prefixes. "kilo" == 1,000 (eg. 1000 meters in a kilometer). "mega" == 1,000,000.

    A kilobyte is 1024 bits, *because* 'echo "2^10" | bc' ==
    1024
    (which is close to 1,000). Similarly, a Megabyte is 2^20 bits or 1048576.

    So endeth the lesson. :-)

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