dealing with torrent websites

Rally in Stockholm, Sweden, in support of file...

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In the past I have done some posts where I call into question the responses to online copyright infringement. Most of these posts concern the disproportionate use of legal methods and court orders such as ex-parte injunctions to force entire websites of the grid. The focus of all this writing has been to striking a balance between an open and collaborative web vis-a-vis the rights of the copyright holders.  Its also been to focus in on how intermediaries which vary from our internet service providers to file sharing websites provide the backbone of our network communications. Quite simply, these intermediaries which mediate our information exchanges should not be made onerously liable, otherwise they may just disappear. All this discourse presumes the intermediary to be a good/reasonable actor.

What I have failed to take into account is that the rights holder (the person who is owning the copyright) acting within the bounds of law as well as propriety and an intermediary refusing to comply with a court order. Now this is far from an academic problem. Torrent websites sometime quite belligerently refuse compliance with court orders or the DMCA. While there may be sophisticated arguments such as them not hosting the files but only links to the files, in the end they often do facilitate copyright infringement. Are there any alternatives  for the copyright owner other than requesting a court to block the website/webpage ?

  • yes, there are a host of alternatives. the alternatives for a copyright owner do not lay in the realms of law, but in the world of technology. Copyright owners still wish to stick to the old physical world of copyrighted works, whereas technology has changed. Instead of embracing the changed technology and finding innovative ways to utilize P2P networks, they are taking up measures that are actually affecting the open world of internet.

    also most people (including me) prefer torrents sometimes because it gives me a movie in the format that i want. such as for example, the MP4 format, or the AVI format which is compressed into 700 mb. Whereas most movie makers would want to sell that movie on a DVD putting it on .VOB format. The very fact that torrents and file sharing is much ahead in the game is because the copyright owners in most cases are providing content in a way, for which the market no longer exists.

    Torrent websites, to use a crude analogy are the bhagat singhs of the internet world, which though presently seem to be an abnormality, but in changed circumstances would otherwise be the heroes of the new world.

  • I agree with you Ashwani, but I feel that often our narrative of the pirate-hero ignores modes of content production which are based on financial investment and suffer due to piracy. Now the responses can quite easily be, legal, technical as well as entrepreneurial. However, in a lot of cases, the last two are not applicable. For eg. take the case of a local language movie production by an individual producer. Such a person will certainly have difficulty in digitally marketing his movie. However this does not make it moral or legal to pirate the movie itself. I also think your point on “market failure”, where copyright owners fail to anticipate and cater to demand is valid, however one finds even after “convenient” legal outlets such as Itunes and Hulu in place, a lot of people still want to download a song without paying for it and watch a show without watching the advertisements. 

    • internet has led to democratisation – one thing which cannot be denied about it – thats why, now we have youtube and tons of amateurish broadcasters and music sites where tons of amateurish music artists (including me) produce music. it has brought down the whole chain of music/video production.

      internet by its very nature is about democracy, about being able to give everyone a chance to be present there. what I am trying to say is that internet has enabled a top-down effect. where the methods of production are no longer concentrated in monoliths of corporates (where massive resources could be put to produce a really highly glossy out of the world product), but instead in the hands of individual as an individual. music and video production hs not gone down if you see , going by the tons and tons of new video and music coming up everyday. its just that internet is making corporates take the heat of such increasing democratisation.

      internet thus has changed the rules of the game. it enables people to make stuff at zero amount and even watch stuff at zero amount. And if it enables so and if such is possible, people by their “natural” inclinations will tend to move towards a free regime, because the internet enables it so. i guess i am using a naturalist argument here, but then again, law can only go to an extent in enforcing positivist provisions against what is naturally possible. hence people find it odd at times to observe anti-piracy laws.

      in conclusion, i would say internet has changed the game and the new dynamics of production, publication and distribution has to be adopted.