Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Piracy Ubuntu Your Rights Online

Wil Wheaton: BitTorrent Isn't Only For Piracy 354

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-just-for-evil-anymore dept.
itwbennett writes "Geek advocate Wil Wheaton has written a blog post on the (legal) usefulness of BitTorrent, saying that the speed of his recent download of Ubuntu 12.04 should serve as a reminder that BitTorrent fills an important niche. Wheaton compares blocking BitTorrent to closing freeways because bank robbers could get away."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Wil Wheaton: BitTorrent Isn't Only For Piracy

Comments Filter:
  • Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:37PM (#40023129)

    Don't get me wrong, I think the actions of big media are way out of line and it angers me greatly to see the damage being done to law and society in general to protect a dying business model for a few more years..

    That said, the analogy used in the summary isn't quite right. Yes, bittorrent has a lot of great legitimate uses, but we are deluding outselves if we think legal bittorrent usage is the majority of bittorrent traffic, or even a large portion of it. I get that extreme statements like this are necessary to balance out the extreme statements made by the other side (that song you downloaded cost us 500 million, etc..) .. but I still don't like it :(

    • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:45PM (#40023213)

      Legal uses are 100% of my bittorrent traffic. I can't speak for anyone else.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Shut up, Wesley!

    • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Informative)

      by scdeimos (632778) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:34PM (#40023659)
      For a large percentage of internet (gaming) users I'd say you've probably used BitTorrent without even realising it. Ever played one of these games: World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III? Blizzard's software update system uses BitTorrent by default with a fallback to HTTP, and they're not the only ones.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't get me wrong, I think the actions of big media are way out of line and it angers me greatly to see the damage being done to law and society in general to protect a dying business model for a few more years..

      That said, the analogy used in the summary isn't quite right. Yes, bittorrent has a lot of great legitimate uses, but we are deluding outselves if we think legal bittorrent usage is the majority of bittorrent traffic, or even a large portion of it. I get that extreme statements like this are necessary to balance out the extreme statements made by the other side (that song you downloaded cost us 500 million, etc..) .. but I still don't like it :(

      Exactly exactly exactly. While Wil has the best of geekly intentions, his analogy was sad. If bank robbers drove 19 out of 20 cars on the freeway, you bet your ASS they would be closed, closed in a heartbeat. That's just basic civic management. Come on.

    • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:13PM (#40023963)

      Remember when they said the MP3 format was illegal, and a majority was for illegal copying?
      I do.

    • Re:Not quite (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Br00se (211727) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:32PM (#40024393)

      I agree the analogy does not quite fit. He should have compared blocking BitTorrent to closing freeways because people might exceed the posted speed limit.

      Sure a lot of people do it, but we only care about the ones that really abuse it.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      The reason that most bittorrent traffic is illegal is because it is an efficient data distribution mechanism. If something more efficient is developed in the future, you can be sure that pirates will migrate to that just as quickly as they dominated bittorrent.
    • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @11:36PM (#40025009)

      Bittorrent is a protocol for moving data. It's really good at moving files, particularly large ones. This is a good thing.

      The problem is, most files of that size happen to be media files like games or DVD rips or applications, which are particular targets for being distributed illegally.

      Having said that, you can probably take just about anything that is legal and find some way to put it to a use that can abet some sort of illegal or prohibited activity. Possibly illegal use is not really an argument, by itself, for prohibiting something. There would have to be very compelling special circumstances to make that palatable.

      What's more is that, because it is an open-ended protocol and not a specialty tool for "piracy", if you outlaw it or block it, someone will just come up with something that resembles it... and that will then be used for downloading content too. The cat is out of the bag. Trying to stop downloading at that level is simply attacking the utility of the network for users without really addressing the source of the problem. Bulk download protocols are needed, even if their legal use is dwarfed somewhat by their illegal use. Eventually, as data sizes increase in general, more and more legally sourced files will be large enough to need distribution.

    • by master_p (608214) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:25AM (#40025837)

      The amount of illegal traffic does not change the nature of the medium: bittorrent is there to share data. That does not make it illegal, and even if 99% of the transferred data are illegally transferred, it still does not make bittorrent illegal.

      A human can easily learn the notes of a song. The person can then be used to 'transfer' the notes to another destination. Is the human's abilitity to transfer information illegal? it is not.

      Your computer's motherboard is also a network of electrical signals, where pirated material flows through. Does that make electronics illegal?

      Saying that a transfer medium or protocol is illegal because the data moved through it are illegal is extremely stupid, and that is what Wheaton is saying.

    • by xenobyte (446878)

      The analogy is right on! - I've often used roads as an analogy for the network simply because they are the same thing - a means of transport that can be used for good or evil, and everything in between.

      The roads were - as were bittorrent - created for purely legitimate purposes. Then someone found a way to use them for something else. It's not the fault of the road or the network (and all its protocols) what they end up being used for. To say that bittorrent equals piracy is as wrong as saying that fast car

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd imagine that the BitTorrent traffic due to sharing of works without the copyright holder's consent dwarfs the legal traffic. So blocking or throttling BitTorrent is more like controlling access to lock picks and drug paraphernalia (which also have legal uses).

    As a die-hard geek/maker it pains me to have access to tools restricted, but this is hardly an oddity of the digital age.

    It seems like network owners have the right to shape their traffic, and Will has a right to take his business to ISPs that don

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:45PM (#40023215)

      It seems like network owners have the right to shape their traffic

      Unless that right is taken away, that is.

      • by KhabaLox (1906148)

        It seems like network owners have the right to shape their traffic

        Unless that right is taken away, that is.

        So, you're saying that network owners have the right to shape traffic, but the government should take that right away?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by hal2814 (725639)
      "Re:I agree that BitTorrent is a tool, but...."

      so is Wil Wheaton.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It seems like network owners have the right to shape their traffic, and Will has a right to take his business to ISPs that don't do it.

      This is such a bullshit argument with the reality of the current state of broadband across the US. There is almost no competition to go to in most areas, there is no way to start a competition in a lot of areas where the right to lay the cable was granted along with a local monopoly for whoever laid the fiber and these internet service providers also own or are owned by the big media companies that have an interest in stomping out anything that competes with their content divisions...

  • by multiben (1916126) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:39PM (#40023153)
    Drawing that sort of parallel actually harms the case for BitTorrent. It is so ridiculously extreme that no-one could take it seriously and it damages credibility. How often does a bank robber drive along a freeway? How often are illegal files downloaded on torrents? Is there really a valid comparrison here? It just gives the other side more ammunition.
    • It is "slightly extreme" or "ridiculously extreme"? Also, what is your suggestion for a proper analogy?

      From TFA:

      Personally, I think this is like closing down freeways because a bank robber could use them to get away, which I know is an imperfect comparison, but is the best I can do after a night of not-especially-good sleep.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Does it? I think it's a valid comparison, because it's fundamentally the same sort of situation. Both "services" have both legitimate and illegitimate* uses. Most people would argue that shutting down the freeways would be blatantly wrong, as it harms the vast majority of legitimate users far more than it harms the minority of illegitimate users. So the question then becomes "at what point do you 'shut down' a service that has both uses"? What ratio of illegitimate to legitimate users is necessary? 70%? 50%

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:40PM (#40023163)

    I remember when a new Knoppix launched. My boss asked me to get it and I did. Asked him if I could seed it over the weekend to help out and he said sure, it was summer and usage was low. Sent out like 1.5 TB of data over the course of 2.5 days.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      I don't seed Linux ISOs, but I do seed Humble Bundle games I have purchased. It's an ideal distribution method that keeps the weight off the servers - I always go for the torrent links rather than the direct http downloads.

      • This is why I always use Bittorrent to download Linux ISOs (and seed them afterwards). Often these organisations are not for profit or at least trying to make a small profit. Why would I put a small dent into their costs by using their bandwidth when I can use some of theirs and a lot of other peoples who (like me) are willing to share the pain? Fortunately I'm with a flat rate ISP, but I would still continue to seed even if I weren't.

  • Downloading Ubuntu (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Can we collectively stop using Ubuntu/Linux downloads as an argument point to extoll the virtues of bittorrent? Lets use an example that people are familiar with. No one outside the tiny geek subculture downloads these things or knows what they are.

    Remember, you're trying to win them over, not preach to the converted.

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:53PM (#40023317) Homepage
      OK, perhaps someone here can provide some suitable legitmate and mainstream examples that we can cite then, because I have to admit I'm struggling with your criteria. I use BitTorrent to download a lot of legit stuff, but if Ubuntu (and, by implication of its popularity, all other Linux distros) and presumably niche/word-of-mouth Internet series like Pioneer One [pioneerone.tv] are not suitable, then what is? ISTR that one of the larger game vendors uses BT to push updates and patches, but can't for the life of me remember which one, and there have been a few similar experiments here and there, but most of those seem to have died a death.

      Surely there's something? Right?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Blizzard's WoW updates are distributed via BitTorrent.
      • by Kelson (129150) *

        OK, perhaps someone here can provide some suitable legitmate and mainstream examples that we can cite then

        Blizzard still uses torrents to distribute software updates in their games, right?

    • Remember how LimeWire billed itself as a "sharing tool" that you could use to share things such as "recipes" with your friends?

      The problem is that you need a real example (that doesn't involve piracy) otherwise you'll be laughed at by your own users.

      • by jez9999 (618189)

        The problem is that you need a real example (that doesn't involve piracy) otherwise you'll be laughed at by your own users.

        Sharing 5+ year old songs and movies. IF we had a fucking sane copyright law.

    • Can we collectively stop using Ubuntu/Linux downloads as an argument point to extoll the virtues of bittorrent? Lets use an example that people are familiar with.

      Such as? How many non copyright infringing uses are there for bittorrent that (non-geek) people are familiar? How many of those represent more than an insignificant fraction of bittorrent usage?

      • by rgbrenner (317308)

        How many non copyright infringing uses are there for bittorrent that (non-geek) people are familiar?

        ^ this. Until bittorrent is used by normal people for something legitimate, it's always going to be associated with pirating. It really just needs one really popular legal use... netflix streaming over bittorrent, or adobe giving you a bittotrent link after you purchase software (of course, neither of those would actually work.. also needed: someone more creative than myself :)

        • Until bittorrent is used by normal people for something legitimate,

          It's been used by indie musicians to distribute their music for years now. That's certainly a "legitimate" use in my eyes.

      • Several video game studios use BT or similar protocol to alleviate bandwidth consumption. Blizzard distributes updates via P2P, so if World of Warcraft isn't mainstream enough for you then nothing will ever be. Fact is, BT itself is niche and geek, so the entire premise is flawed.

        Revision3 uses it to push out their videos. So do the indie and folk musicians I know. These are "mainstream" among young and old alike -- hell gramps has been donating to musicians on Kickstarter for years before it got popu

    • by Anaerin (905998)
      Interesting, especially considering the biggest MMO in history *WoW, if you didn't guess) uses BitTorrent to distribute it's content, patches and updates, and most Free to Play MMOs (at the least) use a BitTorrent downloader (BT DNA-based, usually) to download the initial setup and content files, there's two huge legitimate uses.
  • Now he will be shunned ( black listed ) by the very people that he makes a living from, the 'industry'.

    I commend him for speaking out with some sanity, but i do hope he just didn't destroy his future in the process.

    • Nonsense. After Hollywood drives itself into the ocean, it will be Will Wheaton who will bring cinema / television back into style.

      And the first show he will bring back is a remake of Star Trek TNG, except this time he will be playing the part of the captain. ;-)

    • I thought the only thing keeping his career alive was guest appearances as himself on Big Bang. :)

      Speaking out on behalf of nerds only adds to his onscreen persona.

  • The other half of the problem is ISPs blocking bittorrent just to reduce traffic and supply less service. Fighting "piracy" is just a convenient excuse.
    • by Isaac-1 (233099)

      This is a fair comment, I have helped someone set up free to renters wifi at an RV park, one of the things that had to be done was block peer to peer otherwise it consumes all available bandwidth. (note the broadband available at this location is very limited fractional T1 speed)

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      The other half of the problem is ISPs blocking bittorrent just to reduce traffic and supply more port 80 service to other subscribers.

      FTFY. You're not the only person on your segment, and if you want to be, get out your checkbook. Residential DSL/cable modem hasn't been "unlimited" for some time.

      • You are the only person talking about unlimited, but nice straw man. A GB of torrent is no less deserving than a GB of youtube, netflix, OS updates, paid game downloads or more to the point a GB of that ISP's video service. Once ISPs choose which services you are allowed, the internet becomes the new cable TV.
  • We know it has other uses, it's use however is downloading stuff we shouldn't. It's a silly argument. The only time Ubuntu really push Bittorrent downloads in on release day.
    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Torrent is just the file transfer protocol, like FTP, HTTP, or of course USENET. It is indexing sites like PirateBay that give Torrent a bad name. They could just as easily use another protocol... something like torrent is even used by CNN to play video (Octoshape?).

  • Some of these Linux ISOs are owned by HBO, MGM, Fox, and Universal.

    The last Linux ISO I downloaded was Avengers R6 release.

  • by Falc0n (618777) <japerry@j[ ]micr ... m ['ade' in gap]> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:53PM (#40023315) Homepage
    Its also how Blizzard distributes its games. Its nothing new, and quite effective.
  • by demonbug (309515) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @06:58PM (#40023355) Journal

    Sadly it seems like places that would most benefit from Bittorrent are the least likely to use it. My favorite example was a big document that was fairly recently released publicly, I don't recall what it was on. But there was major press interest, major public interest, and you just knew that the Library of Congress website (or whatever agency it was that was hosting it) was just going to implode under the strain. Impressively the website didn't completely go down, it just sat there serving a 100+ MB pdf at about 100 bytes per second. With all that interest, all those people trying to download the same public document at the same time it would have been perfect for Bittorrent. Sadly I think it is too closely entangled with piracy in the minds of politicians, so it is very unlikely that it will ever be put to such a use.

    • by Bomazi (1875554)
      Until bitorrent is supported natively and transparently by browsers it is not suitable for a government website. They have to be usable by anyone, not just technically inclined visitors. Requiring something like a pdf reader is one thing but a bittorent client is too complicated to set up.
      • Opera's had native bittorrent support for years [opera.com], but I'd suspect that the other browser manufacturers would consider adding this as a built-in feature either bloat or indicative of supporting piracy.

  • welcome to 5 years ago.

  • by davecb (6526) <davec-b@rogers.com> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:17PM (#40023551) Homepage Journal

    Over and above the claim that torrents helped pirates, there was the claim that it was a bandwidth-hog.

    Well, it aint so! Jim Gettys researched it, and found what the network vendors were seeing was ... bufferbloat! See https://gettys.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/the-next-nightmare-is-coming/ [wordpress.com]

  • by corychristison (951993) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:02AM (#40025111)

    I am aware this is a discussion of the current legal uses of Bittorrent, I offer an off perspective to the idea of embracing the free P2P distribution channels.

    We need more legal digital distribution avenues. Period.

    The huge media corporations are screaming bloody murder but they refuse to back down on things like DRM and content regions. If they were to embrace the "free bandwidth" that Bittorrent provides they would not be crying about record breaking profits in years.

    What if there were a service for those of us falling through the cracks who _honestly_ want to pay for the things they download "illegally." A service where I could purchase a license to obtain a specific media by any avenue I choose to pursue (aka. Bittorrent, Gnutella network, In the back alley, etc).
    If a company (or media conglomerate) were to open up shop online. Its role would be to sell customers a license to view the content and provide you with a bill of sale (that I would hope would hold up in Court if the situation were to arise), thereby authorizing you to obtain the media via P2P. Overhead for the business would be _very_ minimal, as your customers are also the content distributors and could probably sell licenses at insanely low prices. For example: $5 full CD album, $5-10 full length movie and profit themselves $1-$2.50 after transaction costs, etc. With over 500 Million people in North America, I am sure even capturing less than 1% could make it a worth while business model.

    I would be interested in such a service if it existed. As all other options seems to be out of reach for me. I am sure there are others out there who feel the same.

    I _want_ to pay for the media I download, but it has to be reasonable and not encumbered with DRM. Not everyones situation is the same but my situation is so: No movie rental stores in town (since Blockbuster Canada went under, as well Rogers Video closed many of its locations). Purchasing a movie is usually fruitless endeavour as you are still bombarded with ads you can't skip and lets face it, optical media is going the way of the do do bird. Living in Canada, I don't have access to Hulu and Netflix is very limited (I also don't have the right hardware or software configuration to use it, but that's just me). Amazon Instant Video doesn't exist in Canada.

    Regarding the business model and potential profits... 528,000,000 million people in North America. Lets say 0.05% (around 264,000 people) of that market were to participate in such a service. If those 264,000 people are willing to spend $15-$20/month on media (like I am), they could potentially gross $3,960,000+ to $5,280,000+ per month. In perspective it is not a lot of money considering how much media companies make, but why not at least attempt to collect my money? Instead of calling me a pirate, embrace the free distribution channel of P2P.

    The ability to to "buy a license, download wherever" at very reasonable cost (remember distribution cost is literally nothing, the "pirates" are doing the work for you) in lieu of living in fear of being sued into oblivion I really think such a system could flourish.

    Any thoughts by the more enlightened? I am not a lawyer, just a man who is frustrated with his current options to consume media.

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

Working...