From the Blogosphere
The Pirate Bay and The Pirate Google
ThePirateBay has links to content hosted elsewhere that's available for download using the BitTorrent protocol
By: David Weinberger
Apr. 27, 2009 04:45 PM
ThePirateBay has links to content hosted elsewhere that’s available for download using the BitTorrent protocol. The site also provides a search engine for finding that content, and a page for each torrent with information about the content. It doesn’t distinguish between content that’s protected by copyright and content that isn’t. The four founders of ThePirateBay were convicted by a Swedish court last week. They were fined a middling amount, and were sentenced to a year in jail. (”What’re you in for?” “Improper use of metadata.”)
Now there is ThePirateGoogle, created by someone to make a point. There you can use the Google search engine to search for content hosted elsewhere, available for download using the BitTorrent protocol. It doesn’t distinguish between content that’s protected by copyright and content that isn’t.
Here’s the text from ThePirateGoogle site:
Yes, you can do with Google what you do with ThePirateBay. For example, do the following search at Google:
There’s obviously a difference in intent between ThePirateBay and Google. But there is precious little relevant difference in the service. So, why jail the founders of ThePirateBay but not the founders of Google since either can be used to find copyright-protected torrents? Having the wrong mental attitude? (”What are you in for?” “Intent to improperly use metadata.”)
What to make of this? I find myself in a jumble:
1. I don’t think it’s a double standard. Intent counts. The difference between the Heimlich maneuver and assault is intent, and that’s as it should be. ThePirateBay is intended to enable the sharing of copyrighted works: TPB has facilities designed to help you locate, evaluate, and share files, including a page for each torrent with comments, ratings, descriptions, and the number of seeders and leechers (to see how alive the torrent is). And it’s named The freaking Pirate Bay. There may or may not be a law in Sweden against what TPB does, but it’s disingenuous to say that the site is ethically the same as Google.
3. ThePirateGoogle shows that shutting down ThePirateBay is not going to stop the use of BitTorrent to share copyrighted files. But jailing TPB’s founders may slow sharing down. Torrent site after torrent site has been shut down over the past few years, making it harder to find and download files now. The verdict in TPB case, especially with its jail sentence, will slow down the torrent of torrents, although perhaps not by much.
4. Just in case someone tells you otherwise: The BitTorrent protocol is not the issue here. It’s a brilliant way of sharing large files, and it’s used all over the place for perfectly legal file-sharing.
5. I don’t know what to do about copyright. It’s obviously spun out of control and needs to be pulled back in — lasting 70 years after the death of the creator is absurd — but we need to do far more than just shorten its term. Compensating creators for every use of their works obviously contradicts the maximal open sharing and reuse of works that drives culture forward. Creating a legal and economic environment with incentives for creators does not contradict the open sharing and reuse of works. The question is: Which legal/economic environment would work best? I don’t know — I wish I did — but I suspect it’s one in which copyrighting a work takes a little bit of effort, not all categories of work have the same copyright protections, the terms are way way way shorter than they are now, fair use is greatly extended, infringement only counts if it actually hurts sales (in the way that most mashups do not), compensation does not come from accounting for each and every use of a work, and we start rewarding those who release their works into the public domain by showering them with affection, cultural uptake, and some money.
That’s about seven steps short of an actual copyright reform program. But I find the whole topic headache-making and, frankly, depressing.
1. ThePirateBay posts all the legal letters it gets, plus its replies. Feisty doesn’t begin to describe the replies.
2. The judge in the case seems to have ties to the copyright industry. The lawyer for one of the defendants is calling for a new trial.
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