Jon’s thoughts on P2P file sharing and the media

There’s been a lot of debate as of lately about file sharing and people downloading pirated material.

Peter Mandelson’s announcement on cracking down on file sharers this week has raised some groups raising opposition in the media, including things on Facebook. I thought I would write some thoughts here.

Firstly it was the Pirate Bay, a Swedish organisation who set up a search engine to find bit torrents (sections of files stored on individuals computers being shared around the world) that were in the news over their arrest.

Some years ago, there used to be a web site called Audio Galaxy, this came shortly after Napster. I got lured into getting free music on the advise off a friend. It was quite simple, it was just a plain web site and if you couldn’t find the artist or song you were looking for, ie: that artist’s record label had set it to be blocked you just deliberately spelt it wrong and you normally find what you were looking for. After a year of court cases or so, the judges decided Audio Galaxy couldn’t protect the rights of the musicians and it was shut down for good.

After this I decided not to download music any more, why? Because as a Christian I felt that it was stealing, it wasnt until a year I deleted all the music I had that I didn’t have on a CD or got from iTunes. Instead when using iTunes I could pay for songs but more often than not I would just go on their to go “window shopping” for music, ie: I could listen to 30 seconds or so of a song, but rather than buy it I preferred to stick to CDs, as sometimes a really great artist can have a album of consistently good songs and its nice to have all of them, and another coloured bit of plastic to stick on a book shelf. Yes my preferred way to get music I like is get second hand CDs of ebay. Why, as someone else probably has what I am looking for paid the full price and got tired of it, so as long as its in good condition, second hand is good for me, especially as probably most of the 50 or so CDs I have bought in the last few years were less than £3.

Also, if you created something for a living, a piece of music, starred in a movie or wrote software, its your bread and butter, you don’t want someone else taking your work for free. If you were doing pencil drawings on the sea front, you wouldn’t be very happy and someone suddenly coming up with a camera and taking pictures of your work, then finding out a copy of that drawing was in a friend’s house above their fireplace as the bought it cheaper from other part of town? I have worked for two software companies, I am not a programmer but I do provide a service of support and providing the tools (good maintained PCs, laptops, etc) to the men and women that write those software applications. If that company’s products ended up on bit torrent I could have no job and can’t pay my bills.

When the Pirate Bay got shut down earlier this year, there were massive rallies of people supporting those folks as the three men all got prison sentences. There’s even political groups called the Pirate party that specifically want to let people carry on downloading whatever they like without threat of legal action. Ok I admit record labels do not always work with good ethics, and the fact that Sony music put malware on music CDs to put stealth software on peoples computers without them knowing really should be illegal and someone ought to be fired and put in prison over that.

Let me get this straight, did the three Swedish guys set up Pirate bay for free as volunteers? Were they the Scandinavian Robin Hoods of the digital age don’t you think they made a bit of money from banner advertising and sponsors, actually quite a bit of money??? But a political party that is based against copyright? Huh? I thought the main priorities political organisations should rally around is improve our health services, schools, police and fire services, get maximum value for money for our taxes, reduce crime, unemployment and poverty, and help the environment not try to keep people fill up the computer hard disks with as much dishonestly obtained media as they can??? This doesn’t make any sense.

Hard disks are getting ridiculously cheap with 1 Terabyte of disk storage available for less than $100 or so, but internet providers are finding even with so called ‘unlimited download’ packages, they don’t have the bandwidth to sustain people 24×7 helping themselves to an inexhaustible supply of entertainment, and may have to sending threatening letters with the hint of cutting people off.

In this digital age, we all want things here and now, its exciting I find that I can hear a song on the radio of something I grew up with but never knew the name of the band, a quick google search of the lyrics and there it is, then listen to it on iTunes, then get it and pay for it there and then. This quick purchase to scheme ought to grow onto more mobile devices now. Getting more abilities to get music on the fly without some maddeningly complex DRM scheme you have to jump hoops through is a must.

I am quite a big fan of mainly 1980s-reformed for quite a few years lately-but now defunkt British band New Order, with their most recent album they offered a free MP3 download of a song which had 30 seconds of 5 different tracks of their album melded together, which was enough to convince me that that albums was worth buying. And it was! More of this kind of marketing please record labels. Also make all those nice rare stuff and B sides that impossible to find available buy or obtain as a bonus please!!!

I am big music fan and since passing 30 few year back my musical diet as grown more and more widely, collecting all the missing albums of the artists I like, songs from TV commercials, music from movies (getting quite into John Williams and Ennio Moricconi especially) stuff I group up with and new talent that might not so far have got recognition deserved.

The basic thing I am saying is here, if you live music, movies, games and applications, please pay or them, and keep the people employed in those industries in jobs. You can’t moan that music isn’t like the good old days if you just rip it off of Bit Torrent. Some organisations have sprung to provide better more direct ways for artists to get paid for their work, I have bought two CDs from who are good example of this.

Using applications like Limewire or Bit Torrent not only is illegal and hurts jobs, it also is a BIG security risk for your computer, as spyware is usually bundled with Limewire, and you could easily accidentally configure both apps to make some other the folders on your computer shareable to the outside world, possibly compromise a business’s IT security to hackers, or mean (probably not likely) you could be prosecuted. I spend a lot of time removing spyware and malicious apps which convention antivirus software cant always touch and needs specialist tools to remove, even then with modern techniques like root kits, criminals are more determined to find ways to get your computer to deliver spam or find financial information without you knowing. Software on torrents is often poisoned with nasty side effects. Mac users are non immune, the new Mac OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’ has been discovered interfered with malware.

When I get back to the UK I want to be able to know that my possible future employers isn’t in danger of having their products being ripped off.

If you cant afford to pay for software, especially things like Microsoft Office or Adobe’s graphics applications, there’s always free open source alternatives which might need a bit of retraining but much of the free software these days is becoming extremely high quality. If anyone feels that Bit Torrent etc does have a legitimate uses for things feel free to comment below.