Sunday, May 08, 2005

Peer to Peer

I use P2P programs like BeareShare (a gnutella client) and Bit Torrent all the time to download software, music, movies, books... really anything that can be consumed as digital media.

As more and more content can be and is distributed and consumed digitally, this act desperately frightens the producers of said content; many of whom are powerful and wealthy corporations with great political influence. They have used this influence to have legislation enacted such as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and the digtial media broadcast copy protection flag.

Straight up, the DMCA is unconstitutional prior restraint; and essentially negates fair use of copyrighted materials through a technicality.

Then it makes any attempt to circumvent that technicality; even for legitimate purposes; a federal felony.

Basically the content distributors are dictating to you exactly how and when you can use the content that you have paid for. You think you bought the movie when you bought the DVD; but actually you didn't. The distributor still owns that copy of the movie; all you've purchased is the right to watch that movie in the way HE decides.

If more people understood this, there would be ZERO support for this sort of legislation; but most people don't even know what the DMCA IS never mind what it does, or what the implications of it are. In fact, when I explain the DMCA to people for the first time, their almost universal reaction is "Oh my god; how can they do that, this is America. That's unconstitutional"

Yes, yes it is.

The FCC has mandated that in late 2006 all television broadcasts in the united states be digital. As I mentioned above digital content distribution (such as broadcasting) scares the hell out of the content producers, because everything digital can easily be stored, copied, edited, and redistributed with minimal effort, equipment, or technical knowledge.

To alleviate that fear they lobbied for what is colloquially known as the broadcast flag; and that ALL NEW COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES CAPABLE OF PLAYING DIGITAL MEDIA MUST UNDERSTAND AND OBEY IT.

The broadcast flag is a digital signature that will ensure that only specially licensed players will be able to read the digital information being broadcast, and that it cannot be copied or redistributed.

If you dont really understand the significance of that, let me explain it further. The movie companies want to make sure you can only play their movies, on players that you have to pay them a license fee for; and if they decide they dont want you to watch the movie any more, they can just shut it off with the flag.

What if the government decides you can't watch a movie about ruby rigde, or waco (or for the liberals.. I s'pose a few of you read me... about the government lying about the war etc...)?

What if Michael jacksons lawyers sue to get every piece of negative information about him flagged as non viewable?

Sure the intent of the legislation is not to censorship... or at least the public intent... but you don't prepare for the enemies intentions, you prepare for their capabilites; and in this case you do everything you can to prevent them from acquiring this heinous capability.

"But we'll jsut fid a way around it, like we did with those video games", yes we will; and then everyone who does that will be a felon; because the DMCA makes it a FELONY to "get around" copy protection and use restrictions EVEN IF IT IS YOUR LEGAL RIGHT TO USE THE MATERIAL IN WAYS THE TECNICAL RESTRICTION WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO DO.

"But that's unconstitutional and un American"

Yes, yes it is.

Well, in a remarkable example of the judicial restraint of government that was intended in our constitution; and has so frequently been ignored or dengirated in the last 50 or so years; a few days ago a federal circuit court struck down the broadcast flag as an unconstitutional overreach of the FCC's regulatory authority.

I expect from this that there will be attempts to introduce new legislation mandating the flag rather than trying to mandate it through FCC regulations, but honestly I think this means the broadcast flag is dead. They'll jsut have to sneak this stuff in some other way.

...That is if we can get the major new media organizations; all of whom are owned and controlled by the same five megacorps that are pressing for the broadcast flag and the DMCA in the first place; to report on it, and its significance.

Now, back to peer to peer; the distribution technology that engenders this rampant fear on the part of the content distributors.

Peerp to Peer is a generic term for any system that lets me directly connect to any other system, without using a centeralized middle man; known as a server. I'm a peer, the other users computer is a peer; thus Peer to Per, or P2P.

The first REALLY popular P2P system was Napster in the mid 90's; which at it's peak had something like a dozen million users (the nubmers vary wildly and none are accurate). I can't begin to describe to you how this made the content distributors shti themselves.

Well, what do corps do when they don't like something?

That's right, they sue.

The last few years have seen thousands and thousands of lawsuites from the content producers trying every means possible to shut down P2P. Heres the thing thoug; it's completely unconstitutional to do so, becuse P2P itself is just antoher technology. IUt is only the ACT or exchanging copyrighted materials that is illegal; and even then it is only illegal if you dont intend a fair use of the materials. In some cases copying a video or song and giving it to your friends IS fair use; and there is no way the content producers can prove that what most P2P users do ISN'T fair use.

So instead of even trying to prove illegal use; they jsut sue and sue and sue and hope that something sticks, or the weight of legal bills causes the people doign the sahring to collapse.

They are fighting a losing battle, and they know it;n which is why they keep trying for legislation such as the DMCA, and regulation such as the broadcast flag; but they don't seem to understand you can't sue your potential customer base into buying from you.

The whole thing WILL collapse eventually, and new means of content creation and distribution will need to be developed. There's no way around it; and the content distributors jsut havent seen that yet.

But that doesnt address the moral issues around P2P; jsut the technical constitutional ones.

A commenter on the NoR made this comment with regard to P2P:
"p2p software should absolutely be legal for legitimate pruposes.

Illegal downloading is a much more complex issue for me."

It's not complicated at all; it's like fucking the easy girl with no self esteem, that lives down the street from you when you're in Jr. High; you know it's wrong, but you like it and you don't want to stop.

P2P is not complex to me at all:

If what you are downloading for IS or SHOULD BE fair use (without the influence of unconstitutional restraint), you are 100% justified; otherwise you are stealing.

Banning P2P software because it could be misused is just like baning guns because they could be misused THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.

(though interstingly, most of the people who want to ban guns, are people who want to see MORE p2p. Probably because P2P is very socialist and anti corporate in it's nature; and most gun banners are socialist in THEIR nature.)

That said, I steal software, and entertainment (music, movies, books) online for my personal use all the time. I would never do so for a client, or for work; but for my personal use I have simply decided that I don't care that I'm stealing it.

The only thing I salve my conscience with, is that I wouldn't have bought it anyway, and there was no copying cost to the producer; so I'm not actually depriving people of income. Besides, it's not like the ACTUAL producer of the stuff I'm stealing is seeing very much from the product, it all goes to distributors and record companies and movie comanies etc... AND if I do like something enough that I would have bought it anyway, I usually do buy it.

Yeah that's bullshit.

Oh it's all true enough factually; but those FACTS are still not justification for stealing the final product. They are jsut rationalizations.

Information does not want to be free. When you produce something that people want; you deserve to, and have the right to; charge what the market will bear for your product. This give you the incentive to produce more, and better works; and gives others the incentive to do the same. From this we all benefit greatly, and THIS is the true purpose of copyright.

If I don't like how much you are charging, that doesn't give me the right to steal it.

It's jsut that I've decided that I don't care that it's stealing; I do it anyway.

I'm goin to hell for that; AND YOU'RE ALLLLLL COMING WITH ME.