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Thread: File sharing, is it just plain piracy?

  1. #1
    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    File sharing, is it just plain piracy?

    File sharing is a plague that's bringing complete industries to their knees and leaving a sea of starving artists in its wake by blatant copyright violation and the inability of anyone to police it......or is it?

    File sharing makes the news as the shady underbelly of the internet that kids use to obtain the latest movies and music, the system that terrorists use to hone their bomb-making techniques, the reason the music/movie industry is on its knees.

    File sharing is a blanket name for any system that allows for the sharing of any material in electronic format with any other computer users who would like to download it. It's also known as 'piracy' or simply theft, although there's no violence and deck swabbing involved and the original file is only copied and left untouched so these descriptions might not be technically accurate.

    In the old days this was usually done simply by someone putting that material on a web server where anyone who knew where it was could simply download it directly onto their own PC as a single file. The problem with all the material being on a server was that it was easy for authorities to take down large amounts of material by raiding one location.

    Systems naturally evolved. Nowadays there are torrents. The torrent system is decentralized, the files being shared are not in one place.



    From Wikipedia;
    First, a user playing the role of file-provider makes a file available to the network. This first user's file is called a seed and its availability on the network allows other users, called peers, to connect and begin to download the seed file. As new peers connect to the network and request the same file, their computer receives a different piece of the data from the seed. Once multiple peers have multiple pieces of the seed, BitTorrent allows each to become a source for that portion of the file. The effect of this is to take on a small part of the task and relieve the initial user, distributing the file download task among the seed and many peers. With BitTorrent, no one computer needs to supply data in quantities which could jeopardize the task by overwhelming all resources, yet the same final result—each peer eventually receiving the entire file—is still reached.

    After the file is successfully and completely downloaded by a given peer, the peer is able to shift roles and become an additional seed, helping the remaining peers to receive the entire file. This eventual shift from peers to seeders determines the overall 'health' of the file (as determined by the number of times a file is available in its complete form).



    The reality is that there's a wealth of information out there that's available through file sharing systems and is useful to the man on the street, the business owner and the tradesman. Information that would include the latest trade journals, codes and standards from all over the world.

    I use file sharing for reference material just about every week. I want to know about the latest solar energy engineering techniques, the building regulations in the Ukraine or the latest advances in LED lighting technologies file sharing is the tool I use to do it. When I've learned what I need to know I dump the material I've obtained and no longer need and on to the next project or hobby.


    My question is do you think file sharing can be a valuable and legitimate tool or should it be blanket banned? Would you ever use file sharing as a way of obtaining information (and if you did would you draw the curtains first)?
    Last edited by AndyD; 19-Jan-10 at 11:43 AM. Reason: Fighting with bbcode for formating.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    This I know - on the webmaster forums I've frequented, torrents and torrent sites do not have a good reputation. Up until now I've never investigated why, or bothered to investigate what torrents actually are for that matter.

    Andy, reading your post helps me with grasping the concept. The question arises though - what is the real motivation for splitting the files and hosting on a number of different locations? Spreading the load or circumventing copyrights?

    I also recall something called Kazaa which operated on a file sharing principle, and from memory made news for security issues and running into legal problems. I don't recall how that ended though. Is the site/system still around?

    How different is the Kazaa system from torrents?

    And how safe are the downloads?

    (Sorry for all the questions)
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Diamond Member tec0's Avatar
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    Well, in my opinion I believe that copywriting is killing creativity. Some of the best songs of the 1960s and 1950s are dead because of copywriting. Fact is a lot of these beautiful songs will never be remade because someone wants billions for it.

    The fact is, people are done with television. As in DONE with it... When you watch TV you get about 20 min of the show you want to watch and about a 40min of advertisements. Not to mention you have to wait until next week before you can see the conclusion. Simply stated people don’t have the time.

    Now buying the DVD is a good way to watch the show from start to end without advertisements but it is damn costly. A DVD collection will cost you over R700+ “Still in South Africa” I am sure that downloading stuff is actually more expensive so we normally go for the DVD set at your local store because downloading it will cost you an arm and leg and your sanity because our connections is about as reliable as a broken watch.

    Honestly due to the fact that internet is so very expensive it is not worth downloading DVDs from the net. It is not worth downloading music of the net because music CD’s are inexpensive compared to a R300 cap or R10 a song ???

    In shot if you live in South Africa downloading stuff becomes pointless! Fact is South Africa has more people buying music, games and movies legally because it is too expensive to download. Some of the new games are over 8 GB who in their right mind will download 8 GB! Hell the download on 3G will cost you more then what the game is worth!

    And if you are downloading stuff you are probably wealthy and if that is the case “shame on you!”

    The truth is telecommunications industries in South Africa are sharks... there products really expensive so it is not worth the time and money to download stuff that you can buy for less at the local pawnshop, or store.
    peace is a state of mind
    Disclaimer: everything written by me can be considered as fictional.

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    This I know - on the webmaster forums I've frequented, torrents and torrent sites do not have a good reputation. Up until now I've never investigated why, or bothered to investigate what torrents actually are for that matter.

    Andy, reading your post helps me with grasping the concept. The question arises though - what is the real motivation for splitting the files and hosting on a number of different locations? Spreading the load or circumventing copyrights?
    It works for both spreading of load and circumventing of copyrights. Torrenting is just a method of file sharing it can be used legally or illegally it just depends on the the user (or abuser).

    It's the old firearm problem, do you ban the firearm because it can be used to commit crimes and in doing so disadvantage the innocent people who would use them legally for self defence?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    I also recall something called Kazaa which operated on a file sharing principle, and from memory made news for security issues and running into legal problems. I don't recall how that ended though. Is the site/system still around?
    Kazaa was a business that rode on the back of facilitating illegal filesharing. Torrenting is only a method. Kazaa was shut down globally around 1995. Kazaa had a VIP paid section for usersto access premium material such as the latest and greatest movies, movies and software. Users had to install the special Kazaa downloader program which was riddled with spyware, malware and trojans designed to benifit Kazaa financially. It's gone and good riddance. Out of interest though the same skollies that developed and ran Kazaa also developed and brought you Skype a couple of years later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    How different is the Kazaa system from torrents?
    Chalk and cheese. I don't know how to answer this, it's like trying to compare the shoe company Nike to the act of walking from 'A' to 'B', they're linked but not really comparable. Torrenting is an actual method it can be used by anyone for sharing any files, legal or illegal, it doesn't belong to a company as such.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    And how safe are the downloads?
    This isn't easy to answer, I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'safe'. It does depend a lot on the genre of the material you're downloading as well as the sources you're getting your torrents from. In this respect its exactly the same as downloading anything from the internet.

    By genre;

    Let's get pron out of the way first,
    Yes it's widely available and very popular. Depending how the download is packaged it might contain viruses or virii. This type of download is likely to have every hook known to man to lure you on the real porn sites. Apart from the fact I hate seeing torrenting used for this just beware if it's your thing.

    Programs and software
    Very widely available. Mostly illegal versions with registration and activation procedures bypassed. Can contain virii. Tread very carefully.

    Music
    Extremely popular and just about all music ever released is available as torrents. It's very safe and quality is invariably from good to fantastic (lossless). Most commonly lossy mp3 format but sometimes FLAC.
    On a personal note I have been known to download music. Around 80-90% of what I download I'll listen to and I will delete within a day. If I like it I keep it and I will usually buy the CD when it eventually arrives locally at a reasonable price. I usually spend a couple of hundred Rands a month on CD's. Even if I buy the disk I'll usually keep the mp3's for the car and computer listening.

    Movies
    Extremely popular and a very wide variety available. They work out quite heavy on the bandwidth so they're not my thing. The quality varies radically from a camcorder recording made in a movie theatre to a full HD 1080p Bluray rip which might be 4 gigs in size. They're very safe on the virus front.

    TV Series
    Great for ex-pats that miss their favorite soapies, same as movies for all intents and purposes.

    E-Books
    This is the reason for torrenting. Quality is great, usually pdf format, small download sizes and the material available is staggering and safe as houses. My problem was that I studied in the US and the UK. I became familiar at living with a public library system that could supply just about any book you cared to request in a couple of days. I use torrenting to fill that void. Similar to the music they mostly get dumped when I've read them but for me there's no substitute for the up to date, variety, speed and sheer volume of information available. The only other thing that even comes close is a website called scribd.com where I can also disappear for days on end.


    The other side of the 'safe' coin is the legallity. The honest answer to this is that I'm not sure. If I own a legal copy of a CD is it illegal for me to have the same music as mp3 files on my hardrive? I think if I buy a CD that I own the rights to listen to that music however it suits me the best. I can only listen to one version at one time. I'm not going to buy the same album twice, one for the car and one for the office. Maybe a copyright lawyer will have a different angle on this.

    There's a whole mix of moral and legal issues involved and being neither a priest nor a lawyer I'm not qualified to say what is right for anyone else. My conscience is clear.

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    Well, in my opinion I believe that copywriting is killing creativity. Some of the best songs of the 1960s and 1950s are dead because of copywriting. Fact is a lot of these beautiful songs will never be remade because someone wants billions for it.

    The fact is, people are done with television. As in DONE with it... When you watch TV you get about 20 min of the show you want to watch and about a 40min of advertisements. Not to mention you have to wait until next week before you can see the conclusion. Simply stated people don’t have the time.

    Now buying the DVD is a good way to watch the show from start to end without advertisements but it is damn costly. A DVD collection will cost you over R700+ “Still in South Africa” I am sure that downloading stuff is actually more expensive so we normally go for the DVD set at your local store because downloading it will cost you an arm and leg and your sanity because our connections is about as reliable as a broken watch.

    Honestly due to the fact that internet is so very expensive it is not worth downloading DVDs from the net. It is not worth downloading music of the net because music CD’s are inexpensive compared to a R300 cap or R10 a song ???

    In shot if you live in South Africa downloading stuff becomes pointless! Fact is South Africa has more people buying music, games and movies legally because it is too expensive to download. Some of the new games are over 8 GB who in their right mind will download 8 GB! Hell the download on 3G will cost you more then what the game is worth!

    And if you are downloading stuff you are probably wealthy and if that is the case “shame on you!”

    The truth is telecommunications industries in South Africa are sharks... there products really expensive so it is not worth the time and money to download stuff that you can buy for less at the local pawnshop, or store.
    Some ISP's are going for the large volume domestic market. 'No thresholds? download all you can.
    No rolling windows? go for it. We understand downloads.'. They specifically state P2P traffic is allowed.....

    I'm still laughing.

    Uncapped and unthrottled even at 256kbps you could rack up some serious volume over a month for R300.00. It's not actually that expensive.

    Here's another one. R125.00 for 3 gigs @ 384Kbps. Take the extra R25.00 package and you can download 15 gigs overnight. R10.00 per Gig is not too expensive.
    Last edited by AndyD; 20-Jan-10 at 02:07 AM. Reason: Made the best of an erroneous double post

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    Platinum Member desA's Avatar
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    I have found eMule to be a very useful resource for academic books, even on a very limited connection.

    Some of these books are simply unavailable, either out-of-print, or not delivered into certain regions. Typically, I scan these books for content, & if they are useful, will look to purchase them via Amazon, if they can be sourced.

    I consider this to be an ethical basis for this kind of download. Practically, some of the downloaded books are of very poor quality & if printed out in their entirety, would fill your office with lever-arch files - very difficult to read. Quality printed books are simpler in the end - if available.

    Setting up eMule to download over a period of months, in the background, can be very rewarding. I have some 150Gb of useful material in my technical book library.
    Last edited by desA; 20-Jan-10 at 03:15 AM.
    In search of South African Technology Nuggets(R), for sale & trading in South East Asia.

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    Gold Member twinscythe12332's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyD View Post


    Chalk and cheese. I don't know how to answer this, it's like trying to compare the shoe company Nike to the act of walking from 'A' to 'B', they're linked but not really comparable. Torrenting is an actual method it can be used by anyone for sharing any files, legal or illegal, it doesn't belong to a company as such.
    It's closer than you think. Kazaa was a P2P application. Peer 2 Peer. you would search for your specific item (song, movie, software), add it to the download queue. the program would then check other peers for the files. the more popular your download, the more peers.

    the only real difference between Kazaa and torrenting, is that the actual .torrent files are found on websites. these .torrent files are effectively descriptions, giving a unique identity to the file. The file is still downloaded and shared through a program (utorrent, bittorrent, etc). you are still downloading peer 2 peer.

    Quote Originally Posted by AndyD View Post

    The other side of the 'safe' coin is the legallity. The honest answer to this is that I'm not sure. If I own a legal copy of a CD is it illegal for me to have the same music as mp3 files on my hardrive? I think if I buy a CD that I own the rights to listen to that music however it suits me the best. I can only listen to one version at one time. I'm not going to buy the same album twice, one for the car and one for the office. Maybe a copyright lawyer will have a different angle on this.

    There's a whole mix of moral and legal issues involved and being neither a priest nor a lawyer I'm not qualified to say what is right for anyone else. My conscience is clear.
    You were legally allowed to keep a backup of the file. Most people would prefer to keep a copy of their file, and leave the CD/DVD/Game so that it doesn't get damaged. I'm not sure on the current laws regarding that (if the backup law is still in effect, Game creators should receive any number of lawsuits a day. so I think they've probably changed the laws)



    This actually has me thinking. People with DVD players that can capture live TV. isn't that a form of piracy? If so, why hasn't it been removed?
    and the question that goes from that: if there is a series/movie on TV, and you're allowed to capture it, would giving them to a mate to watch be illegal?

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    My "security" concern would be virii, worms, trojans and the like. Are pdf's still safe from these demons?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Diamond Member tec0's Avatar
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    For the most part PDF is still secure; however let us take a moment to understand piracy. It is to get stuff without paying for it. Yes recording discovery is very much illegal if “mass” distribute it and if you sell it.

    p2p is a bit like playing a computer version of Russian-roulette. Sometimes you get what you want other times you get files and the contend is totally NOT what you where looking for and other times you get a nice virus and it is time to format your PC “again”

    Now here is the thing, I buy music because the type of music I buy is normally “special additions” and the sound quality is second to none. Your MP3 may be good and sometimes will even be better than the real deal but it is just not the same. Honestly downloading music is just stupid. CD’s are cheap enough in South Africa.

    Secondly really MP4 and MPG is good but damn a blue-Ray HD is the bomb! It is beautiful! It is brilliant it is beyond a crappy AVI ripped by some dude with a camera strapped on his jacket stealing it from the big screen. Watching that stuff is like trying to have sex with a rusty old cheese-grater. And I wouldn’t even bother...

    Thirdly, I like the internet for the information, the news THE FORUMS and social networking with total anonymity. I use it to communicate and to stay informed not to mention play bit of online gaming. For everything else I go to my favourite music store and see what I can afford and what is worth saving up for. That and I also go to the local pawnshop because there is always a good game that someone gave up for a R50 or so.

    But that is just me,
    peace is a state of mind
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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twinscythe12332 View Post
    It's closer than you think. Kazaa was a P2P application. Peer 2 Peer. you would search for your specific item (song, movie, software), add it to the download queue. the program would then check other peers for the files. the more popular your download, the more peers.

    Kazaa was a business that tied you to a peice of proprietary software to download with. The Kazaa server was the only place the available downloads were indexed for selection by the users.

    the only real difference between Kazaa and torrenting, is that the actual .torrent files are found on websites. these .torrent files are effectively descriptions, giving a unique identity to the file. The file is still downloaded and shared through a program (utorrent, bittorrent, etc). you are still downloading peer 2 peer.
    As you say, torrents are indexed and available through thousands of sites and there are many programs (clients) you can use to download them (utorrent, vuze, being the most popular but the list is long). These differences are major even though the actual protocols that control the sharing process are similar.

    Quote Originally Posted by twinscythe12332 View Post
    You were legally allowed to keep a backup of the file. Most people would prefer to keep a copy of their file, and leave the CD/DVD/Game so that it doesn't get damaged. I'm not sure on the current laws regarding that (if the backup law is still in effect, Game creators should receive any number of lawsuits a day. so I think they've probably changed the laws)
    Laws vary from country to country but generally you are allowed to make back-ups of disks you have bought. When you buy music for example you buy the rights to listen to those songs contained on the disk. Even if the disk becomes unplayable, in theory you still have the right to listen to those songs even if you play them from another source such as a hard drive of a back-up disk. The big problem however is that in many countries it's illegal to circumvent the protection systems (DRM) on the original disk to do this. It's a farcical situation that penalises only the people that paid for the music.

    Quote Originally Posted by twinscythe12332 View Post
    This actually has me thinking. People with DVD players that can capture live TV. isn't that a form of piracy? If so, why hasn't it been removed?
    and the question that goes from that: if there is a series/movie on TV, and you're allowed to capture it, would giving them to a mate to watch be illegal?
    I read an article only the other day about exactly this. If I can find the link I'll include it later. You would think that if a TV program was transmitted without any restriction for all to see that there wouldn't be a problem it being freely distributed. Apparently this isn't the case. Distributing the TV program is illegal.

    Edit This was the article.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    My "security" concern would be virii, worms, trojans and the like. Are pdf's still safe from these demons?
    Pdf's are very safe from maliciousscripts of any kind. Same with mp3 files and avi files. I think at worst they could contain links to dodgy websites but the risk of a direct infection for any of these file types is very low.


    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    For the most part PDF is still secure; however let us take a moment to understand piracy. It is to get stuff without paying for it. Yes recording discovery is very much illegal if “mass” distribute it and if you sell it.
    People who sell non genuine movies, games and music for profit mostly do it the old fashioned way, face to face on the markets or in pokey back street shops. People won't buy illegal material on the internet when they can download it for free if they want.

    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    p2p is a bit like playing a computer version of Russian-roulette. Sometimes you get what you want other times you get files and the contend is totally NOT what you where looking for and other times you get a nice virus and it is time to format your PC “again”
    You are right, there is a risk of surprises when something you download isn't exactly what it says on the tin. With a bit of savvy you can avoid the rubbish. Most sites you get the torrent files from have a user comments on the page. If there are virii of if the torrent is sub-standard people are quick to post comments accordingly for everyone else to read.

    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    Now here is the thing, I buy music because the type of music I buy is normally “special additions” and the sound quality is second to none. Your MP3 may be good and sometimes will even be better than the real deal but it is just not the same.
    From a quality point of view mp3s will always be inferior in quality to the original because mp3 is a 'lossy' format. Mp3's can be encoded to various bitrates. High bitrate mp3's are large files of good enough quality that if you use anything less than high end audio equipment you won't tell the difference. Lower bitrate mp3's still sound good to most but they are smaller file sizes. Downloads of lossless music in FLAC format are the way to go for the purists.

    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    Honestly downloading music is just stupid. CD’s are cheap enough in South Africa.
    CD's are not expensive but if you like non-mainstream music it can be difficult to find. I remember a few years ago a CD cost more than double the price it does today. Maybe piracy was a factor in the radical price reductions since then.

    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    Secondly really MP4 and MPG is good but damn a blue-Ray HD is the bomb! It is beautiful! It is brilliant it is beyond a crappy AVI ripped by some dude with a camera strapped on his jacket stealing it from the big screen. Watching that stuff is like trying to have sex with a rusty old cheese-grater. And I wouldn’t even bother...
    I agree, full HD is spectacular.. The CAM recordings you mention are often bad quality. If however the downloaded movie is from a bluray source and is encoded to 1080p then it will be full HD quality.

    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    That and I also go to the local pawnshop because there is always a good game that someone gave up for a R50 or so.

    But that is just me,
    If you buy a game you buy the rights for you to use it. You never own the code that's on the disk. I might be wrong but I don't think those rights are transferable to someone else. I think it's illegal for that game to by resold by you. If you buy a second hand game from a pawn shop no offence but aren't you depriving the makers of that game of income?

    Edit. I just read through the post, no offence is meant to anyone. When I say 'you' please don't read it like I'm pointing a finger, I mean 'everyone' not just you.
    Last edited by AndyD; 21-Jan-10 at 02:07 AM. Reason: Link added

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