Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

April 2nd, 2003

More thoughts on BitTorrent

Firstly it should be made clear that BitTorrent itself is not a piracy tool. It has many perfectly legitimate uses for transferring large files whose author has given permission for such free distribution. Having said that there do appear to be many easily accessible sites, such as this and this, that are hosting the information required to get access to TV series, films, and music which can not be legally distributed freely.

These sites only hold the .torrent files, which as I explained in an earlier post do not actually contain the copyrighted material. They instead point to a central server, which in turn keeps track of those IP addresses that are involved in distributing the material. It’s surprising that these sites have not been taken down yet, they are not hard to find, and while not many people have the time or bandwidth to download ~1GB files, the number which can is growing steadily.

It’s possible that, if the owners of one of these sites actually had the money available to take such a matter to court, there would be some countries where the hosting of these .torrent files would be found to be legal. They do not after all tell you directly where copyrighted material can be found, they simply point to an IP address that in turn lists people who do have such material. In most places this argument would probably fail, but you only really need one or two jurisdictions in which it’s legal to host these files, and they will continue to be available.

Those running trackers are far more vulnerable, they are the closest thing to the central server used by Napster. The major difference is that while Napster had one central location that everyone knew about, with BitTorrent you can have many different trackers managing different or overlapping sets of files.

This means that while individual legal victories might be had at any level of the BitTorrent architecture (torrent hosts, trackers, or peer-to-peer clients), it would be very hard to stop the distribution of copyrighted material this way. However by taking action against the torrent hosts it would slow down the spread of such material, pushing the location of .torrents underground onto IRC and other such networks. Ensuring that getting the material is more difficult than a search on google would be at least a tactical victory for those trying to suppress the free distribution of copyrighted material.

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April 2nd, 2003

Games of chance

Both Sunday evening and last night were spent playing various Cheap Ass games, and on the off chance that you have never heard of them before, be assured that they are great fun indeed. One of the new ones that we picked up at Ad Astra is Witch Trial, a fun card game with significant gambling elements, and a touch of role play to keep things interesting.

The premise of the game is that you are a lawyer during the witch trials in the US, and you are out to make money by prosecuting and defending cases. The play is varied enough that I think we’ll come back to playing it many times again in the future, joining Kill Doctor Lucky as a classic.

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