Tag Archives: TorrentFreak

Google: BitTorrent is an illegal word (kind of)

Google has an instant/autocomplete service that, when you type something, gives you suggestions on what to search for. Nowadays, however, this search is crippled due to fear of modern technology.

The RIAA/MPAA MAFIAA has now persuaded Google into censoring its suggestions to remove “piracy related” words. Such as “BitTorrent” apparently. I’m not going to lay out much more on this, TorrentFreak does that well enough. However I’d like to sum up the misfires caused by this action:

  • BitTorrent Inc. is the name of the private company which originally developed the BitTorrent standard. They are entirely legal and in no way affiliated with any piracy practices of any kind. This news shows however that they are deliberately censored by Google as a result of this, just because they have developed an efficient algorithm for transferring data and released the technology to the general public.
  • Rapidshare, a company to whose site you upload files at a slow rate – allowing people to later download them at a faster rate, were recently freed in court in a case of piracy related issues. Despite that, they are deemed unfit for Google’s search terms, which of course results in a heavy discrediting.
  • Would it be ok to censor other companies like, say, “Universal”? Removing words for the global dictionary may have unexpected consequences. There’s nothing illegal in a word and thus it should not be considered harmful. Any other behaviour may have unwanted sideeffects.
  • The BitTorrent protocol is a very efficient method of distributing files and widely adopted. Thus searching for various clients for comparison is of utter importance to avoid malware or trojans. One example is the uncensored client name “BitLord” which is a heap of crap and ads compared to BitTorrent Inc’s official client “µTorrent”, which is otherwise the first hit on the search for an autocompleted “bit[…]” search term.
  • The BitTorrent protocol is used legally in distributing not only patches for legally purchased games, but also for the ever-increasing content on free culture video sites.

Noted should be, of course, that Google has not censored these search terms in its actual search engine. Only the automated suggestions when beginning to type a search term. However, as mentioned with the suggestion of BitLord instead of “BitTorrent client”, this may definitely result in a very skewed usage of Google’s search. This doesn’t affect me personally as I never use the autocomplete function and I find Google’s “instant search” incredibly annoying. The thought has crossed my mind to entirely disable Javascript, at least for google.com, permanently.

It seems however that if you know the term (and spell it correctly), you are still given the related additional terms. Such as “Rapidshare premium” or if you’ve successfully spelled “bittorrent”.

Paying for a movie (or supporting Creative Commons)

Being an active promoter of filesharing, people ask me “how will the artists/filmmakers get paid?” every once in a while. Usually I respond with either of these alternatives:

  • The same way they always have gotten paid: delivering an experience, not copies.
  • Artists/filmmakers don’t get paid today nor have they ever gotten paid.

Both statements are correct, though they differ in context, depending on the definition of “artist/filmmaker”. Either you speak of established filmmakers – those who produce for your everyday cinema – in which the first statement is correct. For these people a movie itself doesn’t mean money – they have to make it “sellable” in the sense of adapted to every possible viewer. Through the centralized and narrow-minded Hollywood, however, there are few enough films made to cash in this way using the big herd of movie watchers who don’t bother choosing movies.

By choosing movies I speak in the sense of actually discovering other sources than what’s force-fed through your standard media monglomerate monstrosity. Alternative distribution styles, independent labels/studios or maybe even just older movies in general – perhaps produced before the viewer was even born. Going to the cinema (or using most pay-per-view services) and looking at the schedule is not choosing.

The second statement, that creative people don’t get money, is correct in the sense of independents and those who haven’t already established themselves in the industry. The people who create because they want to and not because they signed a deal to write 15 songs in a year or deliver 3 identical movies featuring Tom Hanks. I’m talking about the films you previously never got to see because it was too expensive to create, distribute and reach out to an audience.

So how does one finance a movie without already having a huge herd of sheep at your doorstep, ready to pay $10-15 for a visit to the cinema and then $20 for the DVD? I’m not entirely sure how they did it, but the production of The Tunnel might provide that answer. I just “bought” 25 frames – one second – of that movie, meaning I donated $25 to the project. That’s more than I’ve paid for Hollywood crap-flicks the last 10 years. And this movie will be free to redistribute at no cost.

For more information on the phenomenon called “the Long Tail” and probabilistic distribution I’d definitely recommend starting with the book by Chris Anderson.
Go to your local library and borrow it for free.

Previously I have promoted and helped raise attention to Creative Commons-licensed films such as Nasty Old People, though I did not support it financially. That specific production however, as well as other free films, seem to have made it fine anyway thanks to other people supporting it. As with any film production it requires taking a risk, but from what I can see there have been relatively small problems for actually good, well-produced films to finance themselves in order to gain a profit. Star Wreck (2005) is a marvellous example of a €15,000 budget movie catching attention and eventually making it possible to finance a €6,500,000 production called Iron Sky – set to be released in 2011.

But let’s return to The Tunnel, set to be released on torrent trackers in late 2010. It was denied an IMDb listing (until they release it) due to not using an “official” distribution channel, they also somehow mark the dawn of a new age in filmmaking and project funding. IMDb notes that they do feature films distributed via BitTorrent, not explicitly saying – but giving the impression – that they don’t want to give the film possible credits required to “be serious”. Who knows, The Tunnel may very well be a trick to collect $135,000 and close the project?

My hopes however are in the finalization and distribution of the movie before December 2010. This in order to show it as part of the 2010 edition of Common Culture of Umeå, a short festival promoting free culture such as that which is licensed Creative Commons.

Having donated $25 I count it as no more than 2 ordinary cinema visits (only one if you count the overpriced popcorn). $25 also counts to approximately one newly released DVD. Though neither of those alternatives give you any right to redistribute the film to anyone else – ever. Keep in mind that you can’t (legally) invite your friends for a movie night using an ordinary DVD release. That sucks and is why I never pay for anything non-Free.

Creative Commons however gives you social freedom, free culture and the right to redistribute.