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Oct. 15, 2012

TechnoLogical: the U.S hates file sharing

by Richard Chen, Online Opinions and Entertainment Editor
TechnoLogical is a weekly blog focusing on new advances in science and technology and looking critically at how the technology we already use impacts our lives. Come back next Monday for the next edition of TechnoLogical.

Last year, the internet managed to gloriously thwart the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Act (ACTA), as internet forums and companies alike felt that the powers given to governments were too broad to properly regulate the internet. While the internet might have dodged a bullet back then, this year, countries are at it again to push more anti-piracy bills. In a more coordinated attack to regulate censorship, the U.S. Congress and the record companies are deviously working together to monitor file-sharing services.

In a plan that has been four years in the making, major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are working the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to terminate internet access of users who illegally download files in the "Copyright Alert System" Initiative.

The Pirate Bay is the leading search engine for torrents on file-sharing networks. Courtesy of Techno Addictions
The Pirate Bay is the leading search engine for torrents on file-sharing networks.
Backed by the Records Industry Association of America (RIAA), this is particularly aimed at file-sharing services such as BitTorrent, because content theft is estimated to cost over $58 billion. ISPs will now be allowed to automate and filter copyrighted material transiting their networks, which will monitor torrents especially.

One glimmer of hope that arises from this initiative is that the RIAA will be halting all litigations of around 30,000 lawsuits targeting file sharers, and putting the problem in the hands of ISPs. The "Copyright Alert System" will basically work like a warning system. On any accounted infraction made by an internet user, ISPs will generate e-mails to alert the user of content theft. Repeated refractions can force ISPs to throttle the user's internet, and after enough warnings, ISPs can terminate all services.

On the surface, it doesn't seem as draconian as the vague provisions in SOPA and ACTA; however, what it doesn't account for is how it will monitor file-sharing networks. Because of the amount of traffic file-sharing networks get and the number of seeds that are hosted all over the world, it is not possible to manually target all of the infringers on the web, nor does it account the infringers out of the U.S. as they are under a different jurisdiction.

In addition, when you're weeding out the users who are illegally downloading files such as music, you'll inevitably accuse users who put out their music on the internet for free. When you're on the internet, there is little computer discretion between songs that are copyrighted and songs that are not, since the security tags can easily be removed under the file properties. It also doesn't help out the RIAA's argument when file-sharers actually buy 30% more music than people who don't file share. All of a sudden, the billions of dollars lost from file sharing donít seem as legitimately correlated anymore as before, does it?

The "Copyright Alert System" is not as diabolical as what we've seen in the past, but it doesn't feel quite right when it's working on the premise that all file-sharers are pirates.

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  • whine whine whine on October 16, 2012 at 9:08 PM
    this is a really well researched and written article, but can someone explain to me why all the techonLogical articles are just whining? like lighten up please.
  • "All file-sharers are pirates" on October 18, 2012 at 9:17 AM
    There are plenty of other ways to transfer files other than torrents such as email, FTP or flash drives. A majority of the time, torrents are used for illegal piracy.

    Anyone who tries to justify piracy by saying "I can't afford it" is fooling themselves. There are plenty of other people who can't afford music, games or other software and they wait paitently saving their money to buy what they want.

    Trying to justify piracy by saying that the "company is greedy" is once again, fooling themselves. I agree, record companies can be greedy and the artist receives barely any money. But if you truly enjoy an artist, you'd pay for their work so they could recieve some share.

    Trying to make this point against game companies however is a flat-out lie. Companies like Bethesda Games and Gearbox Software (Makers of TES and Borderlands series, respectively) are perfectly good companies that are good to their users.

    If you pirate indie games however, you are flat-out selfish. Indie developers do not have developed companies with millions of dollars and they do not have agressive DRM. Pirating an indie game is like taking an infant's security blanket.

    There is no way to truly justify piracy, and although there is a small percentage of people using torrents for legal purposes, the majority of the population is using them to download music and software illegaly. If you want something, pay for it like the law requires. It is stealing.
    • juvi97 on October 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM
      Except for when I want to try something out prior to actually getting it.

      I do agree that people shouldn't pirate indie games though.
      • hmm... on November 30, 2012 at 9:17 AM
        You pose an interesting point however many people will like it and then keep it.

        Many games have demos as well. There are also Let's Plays on YouTube.
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