Torrents - Copyright Circumvention

Hi everyone.

I’m doing a research project at my university. The topic is how torrents are used to circumvent copyright legislation. In other words, how they are used to circuit around copyright rules about illegal downloads and that sort of thing.
I’m looking for ethical opinions on this. How do you feel about this? Do you agree that torrents circumvent copyright, or do you feel they don’t, and how do you FEEL this effects the music, film and game industries?

I want this to be more of a discussion group - I want to know how you feel this ethically effects the different industries (music, game, film etc.). I don’t want legal facts and figures.

Thank you very much for your input. :slight_smile:


I feel that torrents are as ethically wrong as any other method of illegally distributing and obtaining copyrighted files. That the technology might make it harder for a copyright holder to sue you doesn’t change what you’re doing and how you should feel about it.

If downloading becomes huge (not that it isn’t already) then why would people continue to spend 100s of millions to make a movie if they aren’t going to get their money back?

Simply put, downloading cheapens (or will cheapen) the industries that are getting screwed over. I wouldn’t write a textbook when I know I’m not going to make any money off it because some kid is going to scan it in and share it with the world. So who is going to write the textbooks? Finance movies? Write software?

So speaking in ethical terms, you think that they’ll just decide they wont bother, because the people who illegally download will make it not worthwhile because there will be money in it.

Can I put this question to you:

Do you think it really has a noticeable effect on the takings? Taking a recent film, The Dark Knight - that took a gross earning of $533,345,358. (

Ethically speaking then where does this issue lie? If the film makers are still making money, then maybe the ethical issues lie elsewhere - the music industry perhaps? Small artists not being able to make money? What are peoples views?

I don’t think the technology is the issue. You started by asking about torrents which are used to distribute files. This is not a problem if those distributing the files own the rights to the files.

There are other ways of getting movies, such as borrowing a DVD, and making a copy.

Music is the same as movies. You can get the music via torrents or by making a file from a CD and distributing that file.

No matter the method, distributing copyrighted material that is not your own material is not ethical and is a violation of copyright laws.

In my opinion (I am not a lawyer), those that receive the material are guilty as are those that distribute the material.

:slight_smile: Thanks for your opinions, I hope more people interact so I can get a rounded view n this.

People love to point to the exceptions to the rule, how many movies made 500 million +? Not very many.

What happens to the movies that cost 5 million to make and never have a chance to recoup their money?

What happens to movies that don’t need to see on the big screen (let’s be honest, Dark Knight in a theatre is not the same as Dark Knight at home on a 32" screen)?

Ethically speaking then where does this issue lie? If the film makers are still making money, then maybe the ethical issues lie elsewhere - the music industry perhaps? Small artists not being able to make money? What are peoples views?

I don’t see how stealing (whether it be from large corporations or the garage band down the street) how helps anyone out. There is the argument that bands should make their money off touring, t-shirts and the such, and that’s a fine argument, and IF bands want to do that, they certainly can by encouraging file sharing and the such, but that’s their choice to make, not the person who illegally and unethically shares their copies of their work.

The problem with torrents is that the people who are actually stealing the content and the people who are making it available to be stolen are the same group of people. There is no central provider for the owners to prosecute to have it shut down. They’d need to prosecute the hundreds or thousands of people hosting illegal files of their torrent service. Going after the service provider is unreasonable since that is like going after a phone provider because a few people with phones use them for illegal purposes. There are even legitimate uses for torrent so that getting the service shut down completely would be an inappropriate action to (if it were even possible to do it). The way ther service works means that the only people doing anything illegal are those end users who are stealing files and making them available for others to copy.

considering that many sites have gotten shut down, id say your analogy is wrong. 99% of torrents on torrent sites are illegal, hence why they get shut down quick.

Considering that many mainstream hardware producers (eg. Netgear) produce hardware with torrent servers built in, your analogy is wrong. If there were anything wrong in running a torrent server in itself then the big companies wouldn’t be building it into their hardware as if it were wrong then they could get into trouble over supplying it.

Sharing files is NOT illegal as long as you have appropriate rights to the files to be allowed to share them. Sharing files that you don’t have the right to share is illegal regardless of the medium you use to share them.

Anyway, 99.99% of the files being shared are not actually stored on those torrent sites that are being shut down. The files are actually stores on the computers of the people sharing them. The owners of the files can’t go after the thousands of people illegally hosting their files all that easily and so they go after the site that puts them in touch with one another for not policing what they allow to be listed on their site sufficiently well. Their argument is that they are providing an automated connection service similar to a phone provider which they could probably get away with if they actually were to delete all references to illegal files when it is brought to their attention.

Unfortunately there are lots of people using torrent to share illegal files rather than for its intended purpose of sharing files that you have the right to share. Just because people use a service for illegal purposes doesn’t make the service itself illegal. Should we ban cars and guns completely because they can be used to kill people (which is illegal) even though that isn’t what those devices are actally intended for. Torrent is just another example of something which some people misuse.

Anyway how do you know that those handful of sites that have been shut down represent 99% of torrent use. There could quite easily be 10,000 times that much use of torrent legally that you never hear anything of.

I wouldn’t say that torrents are always bad things.

I’d say looking at torrents is looking away from the big picture. If robbery is a crime, do you blame a crowbar?

I always buy the cds, buy the dvds or go to the cinema if I want to see a film, or listen to music. Why would I deserve the right to listen to music that I haven’t paid for?

Let’s keep on track – his research is about torrents used to circumvent copyright, so the fact that torrents are sometimes used for other things is not particularly relevant.

A lot of the way old law is applied to new technology is through analogy. An e-mail exchange is a valid written contract in the eyes of the court, not because someone wrote some legislation saying so, but because they recognize that e-mail is the digital equivalent of mail. The intent of the people writing the mails is what matters, not the details of the technology.

The same should, and eventually may, apply to torrents. Clearly the intent of someone seeding the torrent of a movie they ripped off a DVD is to distribute full copies of that movie. The fact that the protocol breaks up the file into little pieces, and the seeder might only supply a part of the complete file to a particular peer, should not matter. The intent and the end result are the same as direct file sharing, so it should be treated the same.

The only reason I brought that issue up in the first place was simply to make the point that since there are legitimate uses for it that torrent itself can’t be considered to be the illegal part. It is simply the use of torrent to perform illegal activities that is the illegal part and as you say the same laws should be applied there as for any other illegal copying.

What torrent does do is to blur the line between those supplying the stolen goods and the end users of those goods as anyone who is copying a stolen file from elsewhere will most likely also be supplying parts of the file that they have already stolen to others who are also trying to steal the file since torrent doesn’t require the entire file to be downloaded before parts of the file can be uploaded by others. This means that any end user of files stolen through torrent is also automatically a supplier of those stolen goods to others.

I have a divided opinion on this, to be honest. On one side, I do understand that copyrighted material should be respected and paid for. People create for business and they should get what they deserve for their effort.

On the other hand, there is no way that someone can pay for most of the things (furthermore, with crisis going on) and, although illegal, the creators of a particular product get indirect publicity. This means that more people (even if illegaly) will watch the movie, listen to the music or use their software and make it popular and this, at the end, will result in business too.

I think that pricing has a lot to do with this. As an example, photoshop is an expensive program, but I do believe that, even being a fantastic software and I love it, it would not be that widely used if it wasn’t because it has been copied (illegaly) so many times.

And I do wonder what would be of Microsoft Windows too.

With this, I am not saying that it is right. I am only saying that it may bring some indirect advantages which may result in sales. It would be hard to say if the company would have had more profit if their software would have not been distributed through torrents, or the movie, etc.

:slight_smile: thank you so much for the input. i really appreciate your theories and it’s going to help greatly in the project. if anyone else has anything to say about this then do keep adding to it! the more the better.

Exactly my point. This is the current view of many people - ‘I can’t afford it, therefore I shall take it for free’.

So I want a big house, but I can’t afford it, do I just steal one?

Bottom line is this: if you don’t pay for it then you don’t deserve it.

If you can’t afford something, don’t get it. Its not as if free open-source software can’t be used - sure, quality may be reduced - but thats the way it should be.

No, Arkinstall, I am not talking about stealing something for the shake of stealing or simply for the shake of not paying for it.

If you do things just for the shake of not paying, the amount of money that you have is irrelevant.

And deserve is a word that I would not use. Many people really deserve a better things and being able to at least survive and they struggle. This has nothing to do with what people deserve.

What I am saying if you want a better job, you may have to learn/improve your skills and software but you may not have the cash to pay for it. So what do you do? You get stuck in your job because you have no chance to practice and learn the new stuff that will finally end in the required pay rise? Even if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who has a legal copy, installing it in your computer will be illegal.

If you buy a new computer and want to simply add Microsoft Office… that’s another 300 Euros on top of the PC’s price!

Not everybody can afford it and yet they may need it. And now there are other alternatives but, let’s be honest… how many people know that open office exist?

Music and movies are another matter. My personal experience: When napster started, I used it quite a bit to download music. I have to say that there was no rules against that at the time, and anyway the music business would not do any money with the music I downloaded because what I used to download where: extended versions, mixes and re-mixes of songs I liked (and which I could do perfectly without, and I would never buy anyway), songs that were not available in the shops anymore (and couldn’t be bought so there was no loss of money there), songs from other coutries that I could not buy in my own country (yep, no loss of profit for anyone there), and songs from groups I really enjoyed and which I ended paying for, plus a few of new groups that I bought because I loved their music when I downloaded (so that was a little extra)

Regarding movies, I have bought movies that I have only watched once because I thought the the story was interesting and then I bored to death when I watched them. They finally went to the bin.

Nowdays, I have tried to use streaming site… but you always get little cuts and screen freezes because the bandwidth (mine or theirs) may not support so much heavy traffic, so the service is improving but it is not quite ready yet.

For me, the business model needs to be re-adapted to new times and it looks that only a few services like iTunes are trying to do it.

And, I insist, I did not say that it was right. What I said is the popularity and the wide use of certain software, or the reason that people go to certain gigs or buy certain T-shirts is because they downloaded the software/song/movie and got the merchandising, etc. And that helped them to get/stay to the top.

So while it is true that everybody should get their copy and pay for it, there may be indirect advantages when people download your product, whatever you may be.

There are advantages and disadvantages using torrents. Torrents may seem illegal and unethical. But can anyone prevent people to do it. It’s free. Considering the economy today, most people tend to find ways to minimize their expenses.

Torrents are NOT illegal. It is only when files subject to copyright are distributed that way that it is illegal. Using torrents to distribute open source software (just to pick one of many possible examples) is prefectly legal.

It is a breach of copyright to play a radio in a public place if you don’t have a public broadcast licence but that doesn’t mean radios are illegal, just that particular use of them.

Torrents would in fact be a perfect way for distributing even copyrighted software provided that the software is designed in such a way as to require registration in order to be able to unlock and use it. With the huge size that programs such as Windows 7 and Microsoft Office now use in their distributable form and with the way that the software requires activation in order to be able to use it, it wouldn’t require much work on Microsoft’s part to set it up to use torrents as the preferred distributuin method for their software since torrents are perfect for transferring really huge files like tose programs. If Microsoft were to set the install process up so that you had to purchase a licence to use the software in order to be able to install it then distributing via torrent would be no different than any of their other distribution methods and would be far more practical than other online access methods that could tie up your entire internet connection for many hours or even days. The same would apply to any other software.

For music and video to be legally distributed the same way they could use some form of encryption where only those who purchase the music or video are provided with an unlock code to decrypt it. Set up the right way each unlock code could have a one time use so as to prevent people stealing unlock codes.

If I have money I prefer to buy the movies…