December 30, 2024

Death to BitTorrents; Long Live BitTorrents!

I realize I'm way late in talking about the demise of SuprNova, but I have been interested in the chatter spawned by its inevitable shut-down by the MPAA. I'll admit, I miss it. While I would NEVER have dreamt of downloading the likes of Interpol, Missy Elliot, or Absolutely Fabulous from its cornucopian forums, I am a big fan of BitTorrent technology--not only because of the way it can vastly expand the clogged pipes of the internet, but for what it proved to reactionary organizations like the is always going to be one step ahead of you.

For those of you unfamiliar, BitTorrent technology is a peer-to-peer networking software that allows the sharing of files (read more about it here). Unlike Kazaa and eDonkey and Napster before it, BitTorrent is not a program in and of itself that host files or provides directories of users' files. BitTorrent is a technology that speeds up a download. Torrent files are created, posted in an online forum, and then downloaded by users and accessed using a BitTorrent client like Azureus. BitTorrent breaks up a file into discreet packets of information, which are then traded, tit-for-tat, among all the users currently downloading the file. You are uploading your little bits while you are downloading other little bits. When enough users join the 'swarm,' download rates are significantly accelerated. You could download a two hour, 1.5 gig movie, in as little as an hour, or the latest Bjork album (let's face it, that's how we all got it) in a couple of minutes

Of course, this makes it ideal for sharing movies, albums, pornography, anything that comes in large file sizes. And of course, the resulting popularity of sites like SuprNova meant that inevitably it would attract the attention of anti-pirating forces.

I love the glee with which most of us now trade in illegal music and movies--scooping the latest indie release before it hits the shelves at Cheapo (are those still around?) When I visited a friend overseas, we'd sit around in the dark and watch episodes of Sex and the City. BitTorrent was his only link to the Western World! We never gave a second thought to the legality of having the show on a hard drive. It certainly wasn't unheard of for news of a new album up on SuprNova to make the email rounds. And who goes to the video store for porn anymore? That's soooo dial-up.

We just don't think about albums, movies, and t.v. shows in the same way we used to--as confined to a singular physical object like a CD or tape, or an ephemeral transmission. Not when albums can be broken apart, reassembled in random playlists on the iPod and burned onto mix cds. Not when theatrical releases show up on SuprNova the day before they hit the theater. Or when you don't need HBO to keep up with Six Feet Under.

And just what exactly are we trading? A website that hosts gay porn torrent files I frequent, Gay-Torrents, recently went offline due to legal action from five west coast gay porn production companies (this is a website that spells Falcon "F@alc0n" and hides external links with a fake "hxxp" prefix). It was down for a while until the forum owners hired lawyers (what does it say about these forum owners that they've hired lawyers? Are they champions of the free flow of information or just addicted to porn?) to make the case that their forum doesn't actually host the torrent files themselves, only provides links to an external tracker on which the torrents sit.

Then the torrent files should be targeted and removed, right? But they're not the music file or video itself, and are nothing without a swarm of users bringing the digital file into being by trading its packets. What about the originator? Unlike Limewire, you can't see everything that a torrent poster has in his shared folder. Going after the twelve year old music trader who has ten thousand songs available for download makes sense to RIAA, but it doesn't make sense to bring legal action against someone with only one provable infraction.

How about attack the technology itself? Precedent leaves the MPAA with few options. But the Supreme Court is set to review next summer a lower court's order which put the blame for illegal activity on the users rather than the P2P companies. The case will likely put scrutiny on the 20-year-old Sony-Betamax decision which ruled that the distribution of VCRs was allowed because the legal uses of such a product outweigh its ability to copy copyrighted material.

Democracy or piracy, if the demise of SuprNova proves anything its that once again that this sort of technology works best when maintaining a low profile. When your site becomes too much of a smorgasbord, when too many blogs link to the borders of your utopia, it's bound to attract attention. Already, the SuprNova folk are regrouping. Hard to say what moves the MPAA and the RIAA will make next; they might do well to take lessons from SuprNova afficionados and learn to roll with the punches.

see also:

get some porn torrents

get your golden girls torrents here

hollywood has a headache

instant torrent zeitgeist

free indie music

Posted by jason at December 30, 2024 08:09 AM

i think you may be unaware that suprnova wasn't shut down by the MPAA, but because sloncek (the guy who ran it) is helping develop a NEW system based on the bit-torrent technology...


it's STILL there at suprnova.. it's NOT shut down.. just waiting for the NEW system to get started..

Posted by: Fred Penner at January 16, 2024 09:25 PM
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