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Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends

Friday, September 07, 2007

BobF at 12:44 AM [url]:

If There be Pirates There be Heroes

I wrote this in response to a small ISP who was lamenting Bit Torrent because it was an abuse of the small amount of capacity he was reselling – calling them pirates. But who are real pirates and who are the real heroes?

Piracy is indeed a big problem – or perhaps I should use the term privateers – those that the government has deputized as legitimate raiders who willfully hold capacity off the marketplace and then blame the users. Companies like ATT force you to use an entire multimegabit copper wire for a single bit and then blame those who use a thousandths of the real capacity (via modems) for tying up whole wire? Yes, these are pirates and we must put an end to such games.

Please, don't aid and abet their piracy by saying that those who make effective use of the existing abundant resources are abusers – no, they are the heroes who are using effective protocols in order to exchange information past the pirates' blockades.

Efficiency is a measure against assumptions. FTP using TCP is a fine protocol if you assume a publisher distributing content to consumers over an expensive network. But we're talking about exchanging information and we want to be good citizens so we use protocols that are more distributed and tolerant of network variations so that we can use the existing resources instead of requiring profligate spending on networks for video distribution while starving us of vital connectivity for all others purposes.

Let's accept being forced to beggars sharing our misery while the abundant and inexpensive capacity of our infrastructure lies fallow behind the pirates' blockades. Let's demand our inalienable rights.

I used Bit Torrent to copy 36GB of video lectures from MIT using both my broadband connections and taking advantage of MIT's local peering. Does that make me a pirate? I call it being responsible. Of course it happens to be a good way to share video and we have a fetish about video as if it was the Silicone Hills not Silicon Valley that drove the economy.

So we seek to vilify and punish those who innovate and create capacity. Companies like Meraki allow us to easily add capacity at the edge. Are you going to call all the heroes who innovate in using the smidgen of capacity made available to them pirates? Are those who use less than 1% of the real capacity pirates or are those holding more than 99% of the capacity aside the real pirates?

Yeah – people share video though much of the incentive to create the technology was driven by a desire to watch the movies while Hollywood seems to feel it is far more important to infest every nook and cranny with DRM no matter how much damage is done and thus HDTV is being adopted only slowly. Who are the heroes and who are the pirates? Of course don't forget that Hollywood itself was created to get past Edison's stranglehold on technology. And the RIAA killed the sheet music business.

Join us in enabling the future rather than preserving an arbitrary past. Perhaps the problem is that there isn't a role for an ISP as a gatekeeper in such a world. ISPs need to be *SPs without relying on doling out scarce Internet as their primary source of added value.

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