Background reading: BitTorrent

I’ve linked to a number of bittorrent-related stories over the past couple of weeks.  Terry Hart over at Copyhype recently published an excellent summary of the legal issues surrounding bittorrent:

I sometimes see the phrase “.torrent = .crime” used online in discussions about enforcing copyright online. It is considered by copyright critics as a dig against efforts to enforce the widespread copyright infringement occurring within the bittorrent ecosystem — the idea being that content producers have mistakenly declared torrent technology categorically unlawful….The snappy soundbite, however, glosses over the distinction between a technology and uses of a technology. It also relies on a fundamentally flawed premise: the fact that there are some legitimate uses of a technology does not make all uses of that technology legitimate. And within the general bittorrent ecosystem, there are a lot of illegitimate uses of the technology — so much so that the association between “torrent” and “crime” is not entirely unfair.

Hart’s full analysis is well worth reading.

0 thoughts on “Background reading: BitTorrent

  1. His analysis seems fairly thorough, and he doesn’t seem to miss any law at first glance. Still, the implication that violating uses are not legitimate, particularly in reference to technologies v. their uses seems to miss an important point. That is, if you look simply at it statistically, what percentage of VHS tapes were used to store non-copyrighted works? What portion of CDRs, particularly in the early days, just stored a backup of someone’s personal files?

    My point is this: Pointing at public torrent sites and saying that the vast majority of content infringes is one thing – the same is true of YouTube (just ask Viacom). But doing that without at least acknowledging that our system of copyright is based on a broken paradigm seems tacitly dishonest. Copyright law harks from a time when “copying” meant, at a minimum, manually setting type in a printer and painstakingly printing copies on real paper. In a world where I can make virtually infinite “copies” with a simple stroke of the keyboard, failing to at least acknowledge that times have changed (and that the law may not have caught up) is troublesome.


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