As part of my enrichment at my college, the college magazine team have (very stupidly, I might add ) given me my own column. Even better - The editor has cleared an article based on P2P
Below is my current result - This will be the main article in the first issue. If you have any suggestions, see any errors, etc feel free to post
BTW, before anyone asks - Yes, my column will be named 'Illuminati'
Any and all help is appreciated (as long as you don't act like an arsehole over it )When it comes to questionable (going on dodgy) things, no-one can say they’re as clean as a whistle. Maybe its cynicism but it’d be hard to believe that there is someone in in the college who hasn’t got skeletons in their closet – Believing that isn’t true is like believing Michael Jackson naturally turned white overnight; only the most naïve would believe it.
I’m no different – For me, my ‘sin’ was filesharing. Also known as P2P (Peer-to-Peer), what was once designed as a way of sharing files between people has become a way of sharing any number of files between people – Music, movies, software, games. You name it, and chances are that its available before you even heard of it.
This has been around almost as long as the Internet, but it first started to get popular on an international scale during the era of Napster – It’s been a monster growing every day. And like monsters, it’s been misunderstood and attacked.
For the past eight months, various “copyright holding groups” (consisting of nothing more than the biggest – and whiniest – record labels today) including the most publicly-aggressive RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America for those who give a toss) have been suing users of P2P. When the news first came out (and every time the RIAA released some form of press conference every four months or so), there was an obvious split – Many of the casual users, scared at the news, ran like the wind and were never heard of again (which was unfortunately playing into the RIAA’s hand), while the long-timers and realists of the communities laughed at the statistics as it became known that you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than be sued.
That was until we truly realised how far (or more realistically, how low) the RIAA would go.
Recently a 12-year old American honour student known as Brianna Lahara was sued by the RIAA and had to settle for $2,000 (£1,250). Her crime - downloading nursery rhymes and themes of TV shows using software she thought was safe to download because her mother paid $30 for it.
There’s so much stuff wrong there I don’t know where to start. The first is that the software – It is a well-known scam where scumbags package an out-of-date version, call it “Kazaa Gold”, get prime-time advertisement slots on Google, and watch clueless people pay their $30 a piece for it, only to find that in reality the program is free.
The second thing wrong was what she was downloading – Nursery rhymes and themes of TV shows. Can someone find a TV company who doesn’t like the themes of their shows being downloaded (Personally, if I was in that situation, I’d have been flattered – It would have been good publicity for said shows), and more importantly - Who the hell has the right to copyright nursery rhymes anyway?
Lastly – If this girl is in public housing, how do the RIAA think that they are able to get a lot of cash out of her?
Since then, the P2P community hasn’t laughed at the RIAA – They’ve been drawing daggers for revenge. There was a hope that, should the RIAA have changed its whole method on combating piracy, there could have been a middle ground with the recording body - The RIAA’s action to take on less-defended and poorer children has thrown that hope away. Now, the community – and it is more suited to call it a ‘community’ – is wanting to get payback for avoiding the true pirates and instead attacking users that are trying to use Kazaa as a legit service.
It’s no secret that the RIAA have had a seriously harder time now - Being sued by a P2P company it tried to sue themselves, having thousands of prospective customers boycott buying albums of the record labels it represents, having some of its own artists as well as a fair share of British artists including Robbie Williams criticise the group itself and being attacked more and more each day.
But it doesn’t help that certain companies dealing in P2P are backstabbing the scene in general.
Sharman Networks, who run the current most popular P2P software (Kazaa Media Desktop), have remained isolated on the topic of protecting its users. Despite the popularity of its software, KMD and its new ‘pay-to-use’ program (Kazaa Plus) have seemed to follow a case of not providing any protection for their users.
On the other side of the fence though, a group of developers residing all around the the world (most residing in the liberal Netherlands) have released a partially reverse-engineered version of KMD known as Kazaa Lite. With a well-deserved good reputation of removing practically all of the restrictions that Sharman enforces, providing open-source tools to benefit K-Lite users and (most importantly) providing reliable protection for its users against copyright holders, Kazaa Lite has been known by hundreds of thousands to be far more superior than Sharman’s offerings.
K-Lite has, in effect, help guide Kazaa’s evolution as many of the features you see in Sharman’s Kazaa software had usually been in Kazaa Lite for at least a month. K-Lite has been an unofficial source of ideas for Sharman - So what do the ‘legit’ makers do as thanks for (in many cases) evolving Kazaa in general?
If it doesn’t steal K-Lite’s features to use in Kazaa Plus, it threatens to shut down Kazaa Lite with legal action for hacking KMD. While technically Sharman have a case, now is not a good time to try to shut down a Kazaa which is actually doing something for its users – Like that trivial thing of providing security for its users. Until they start wanting to learn from Kazaa Lite or until it starts to give users its own protection, Sharman’s once-popular network will be going down the pan any time soon.
Luckily, Brianna’s story came to a happy end – This wasn’t covered by the media as well as the lawsuit was, but shortly after the settlement a pro-P2P association known as ‘P2P United’ paid Brianna’s family the amount needed to pay off the settlement. College students who have been heavy sharers and been caught have had similar groups pay their way out of there.
I finished with P2P six months ago (before the RIAA started to hunt down filesharers), but I still stay in the community with strong support for it. P2P has the potential to be just as much a universal benefit for mankind as the telephone or Penicillin.
Some big-name companies are starting to create their own online stores to provide legal alternatives to P2P – All I can say is that it’s about b***** time! All we need now to get artists like Madonna and other Neanderthals to embrace the technology and see its benefits rather than plain attacking it because its become a tool for piracy.
To quote Steve Jobs (Co-founder of Apple) on his company’s own legal music downloading service iTunes, “The right solution is to compete with the Kazaas of the world and to beat them”.
And until the bureaucratic record labels realise this, piracy is going to be more of a problem than every before.