Recently the musician Indiana Gregg and her label Gr8pop had an online spat with The Pirate Bay: Gr8pop’s Ian Morrow asked TPB to take down some torrents, and TPB in their usual joking way refused. The events were detailed in an article on TorrentFreak.
Subsequently TorrentFreak posted a response by Gregg to the whole affair (the response is also posted on Gregg’s blog). Gregg’s response was detailed, makes some valid points and (in my opinion) some invalid ones, and deserves to be taken seriously. Unfortunately some of the replies to it on TorrentFreak were both infantile and grossly disrespectful, a response which Gregg doesn’t deserve. So I thought I’d write a detailed and considered response with replies to her points seriously and respectfully.
Pieces writen by Gregg are indented; my response is underneath. For reasons of space I’m not quoting Gregg’s whole article here, just those bits I’m replying to…
Why can we go all over the world on the internet without a Passport? Why are cybernauts allowed to steal goods from the store ‘shelves’ and ‘shop windows’ and justify it as ‘sharing’? Since the birth of the internet, people have been hacking software,stealing music, books, films, television shows, credit card numbers, ebay accounts, IP addresses… you name it, if it’s out there and can be downloaded, it’s being virtually stolen from under your nose.
Is the internet really that much ‘bigger’ than the ‘real’ world? I think not. I believe that in the near future, we will all be using our internet passports. If the government can do it in the real world, what’s stopping them from monitoring this new ‘wild west’ phenomenon of the internet in every town, city, state and country.
What’s stopping them is encryption. Imagine two internet users — we’ll call them Alice and Bob. Alice encypts a message on her computer, and sends it to Bob, who decrypts it at his end. Neither Alice’s ISP nor Bob’s ISP know what’s in the message, so they have no way of monitoring what’s been sent. If Alice and Bob are exchanging illegal copies of files, no-one else will be any the wiser.
You might reply “Well then, simply ban encryption”. But a lot of traffic on the Internet has to be encrypted, for example financial transactions, medical or otherwise confidential information, and internal communications by any company that operates at more than one site. For example, I operate a web server located several hundred miles away and use encrypted communication to update the information on it; I have to encrypt the communication because otherwise anyone could find outh the passwords and hack the site. Many millions of people use encryption every day, and to ban it on the Internet would cripple the economy of any country that tried. And if one country, say the USA, banned encryption, would the others all follow them? I could possibly imagine Europe acceeding to US pressure, but it’s not very likely that China, Russia, Brazil, India, Venezuela, etc all would.
Thousands upon thousands of websites, sharing sites, and torrent sites exist. These websites are making a constant steady flow of income by using other people’s goods…they are pointing people to the goods (music) for free and selling masses of advertisement because people come to ‘leech’ the goods…these sites are basically allowing people to steal and destroy the music industry (which is in fact like shooting themselves in their own foot). The sites themselves claim to be ‘legal’. It is the user’s responsibility not to share copyrighted files.
There are hundreds of different legal jurisdictions. In some of them, torrent-tracking websites (such as The Pirate Bay) may well be legal, for all I know (I’m not a lawyer). TBP are currently being prosecuted in Sweden, so we will all have to wait and see how that turns out.
How easy would it be to simply find all these people who are illegally ’sharing’ and slap a lawsuit on them. They can do that with a virtual push of a button. How hard do you think it will be for the ISP’s to hand over your Internet passport over to the new frontier police? They can see how much you’ve ’shared’ and potentially fine every single torrent user.
Firstly, bear in mind that BitTorrent it not itself illegal and there are plenty of legal uses for it — if I was going to distribute large amounts of data on the Internet (I have a business plan that involves just this) I’d quite likely use BitTorrent in order to reduce my bandwidth bills.
Then consider, if finding and fining every user of BitTorrent and other P2P software was so easy, why isn’t it being done already? Millions use BitTorrent and I’m sure plenty of music and motion picture companies would like to get their hands on these people’s money.
If someone is running BitTorrent and downloading a particular file, they won’t know the IP addresses of everyone else using BitTorrent; they won’t even know the addresses of eveyone else sharing that file; they will know all the IP addresses that they are downloading or uploading parts of the file to, which may be 10-20 IP addresses (out of a total of millions of BitTorrent users).
Media companies and others who want to “spy” on what BitTorrent users are doing typically run a modified version of the software (i.e. the BitTorrent client), that records all the IP addresses that they communicatw with on the protocol. This spying is not always very accurate; recently laser printers were accused of P2P downloading.
It’s likely that the next generation of P2P software will evolve to make this type of spying impossible. You’ve heard the theory that you’re no more than six handshakes away from everyone else? Well, it’s also true of email. If a next-generation P2P client just talks to people selected from a user’s email address book (or people they instant message with, it’s the same principle), it’ll be no more than 6 hops away from all other P2P users. And since users of such a client would be able to set it up so that it only talks to their friends they consider trustworthy, it’s very hard to see how the RIAA or MPAA could find out who’s downloading a particular file.
The real problem lies in the fact that ’share’ sites are making money by pointing to other people’s copyrighted content… The end user gets it for free… the torrents make money…. And the musicians and artists?? Well, they get to live off of ‘fresh air’. Put simply, musicians will not be able to exist financially in order to create music if income streams are cut off (whether or not a record label comes to play).
As a musician and an independent record-label, I see my livelihood being sucked away every day through file-sharing and torrent sites which are allowing copyright material to flow in and out of their sites.
It’s possible that some musicians may find that they cannot earn a living as musicians, and will have to do something else for a living instead. If that happens, it’s sad, but I think the growth of filesharing is inevitable. For reasons I’ve stated, I don’t think filesharing can realistically be suppressed. People will just have to learn to live with the new reality. That might not be fair, but then live sometimes isn’t fair. (Whether I personally think filesharing is fair is irrelevant, so I won’t address that matter further).
Last year, in a period of two weeks, we tracked and found over 100,000 leechers of my album alone. Since then, we’ve found about 150,000 more, of which I, the artist, who put my heart and soul, time and sweat into an album and raising money to market that album, haven’t received a dime, not one red cent. Full torrent files of a complete album!
I wonder how many of those 250,000 people would have bought the album? Many of my friends have iPods. To fill up an iPod with paid-for music would cost about £20,000. Some of my friends are students or unemployed or on low incomes, and realistically there is no way these people are going to pay 20 grand to fill their iPod up with music. So I suspect that most illegal downloads are from people who wouldn’t have bought the music anyway, and therefore don’t represent lost sales. Some do represent lost sales, of course.
Here’s another funny one…the torrent site’s answer to how musicians are supposed to earn a living is: .. well, musician’s will just need to go out and gig some more in order to make a living. Maybe the band can sell a few more T-shirts, etc. etc.
Perhaps they are right. My personal experience: I’ve not bought a CD in years, but in that time I’ve spent hundred of pounds going to gigs and music festivals.
Well, torrent sites are absolutely NOT leveling the playing field. They are just moving the field and reaping the benefits due to a temporary loophole in the law.
I think you may well be right in that torrent sites are using legal loopholes that soon won’t exist. I also think this will make no difference, because (1) BitTorrent isn’t the only P2P protocol, (2) the other P2P protocols don’t require tracker websites the way BitTorrent does, and (3) the next generation of BitTorrent clients may not require tracker websites anyway.
I assume that the torrent sites are planning to be adaptable pretty soon then, considering the number of pending lawsuits from pretty strong and intelligent companies who have not only proven their adaptability to change, but have changed the world as we know it (companies like Microsoft, for example).
I realise you’re not an IT professional, but if you were you probably wouldn’t be using Microsoft as an example of an innovative company well able to change.
Please.. spare us this kind of rhetoric guys. With the likes of Microsoft, Prince, and the IFPI going after you, any outsider might begin to wonder when YOU plan to adapt to ‘change’. It’s becoming evident that your business model is a sinking ship.
Bear in mind that IFPI/RIAA have been going after filesharing since the 1990s (remember Napster?) and over that time it’s continued to grow enormously. Why has it grown? Because computers and bandwidth keep getting cheaper, meaning there are more people on the Internet and they can communicate more easily. These trends are bound to continue.
It may well be that The Pirate Bay’s business model is “a sinking ship”, but even if it is, that will not stop filesharing, as I’ve explained above.
I’ve already detailed some ways in which P2P software is likely to change over the coming years, so I’ll not go over that again.
Free promotion? Basically, torrents are promoting music that has ‘already been promoted’, so it’s not ‘free promotion’.
Really? I’d never heard of you until your recent fracas with TPB. Now I’ve heard some of your music (on your website, not downloaded from BitTorrent, I might add) I quite like it.