At the turn of the century, when the file-sharing service Napster was taken down in a court of law rather than by the competition, Metallica got a lot of press for being against the service and testifying that it had lost the millionaires significant sums of money.
But around that time, another band benefited by exposure to the Napster’s millions of users – Vermont-based Dispatch. Many people received their first introduction to the band at that time and lifelong fans were minted as a result. Like most bands, Dispatch makes most of their money touring anyhow. This example is presented as evidence of a heretical idea – not every content creator loses out because of file sharing.
Recently, Hacked writer Justin O’Connell wrote an article describing how the massive band the Foo Fighters, which is largely the brainchild of Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, were providing an EP called Saint Cecilia as a free download to their millions of fans. O’Connell points out that distribution via Amazon Web Services or other cloud services is not free. While the cost is minimal, it got the writer to thinking: what could be done about that?
The BitTorrent protocol began to see wide adoption in the middle-2000s. Unlike Napster, BitTorrent is decentralized and has no central point of failure. As long as the torrent file and the files being shared exist somewhere online, the files are going to be accessible. There is no single company that can be held responsible for the use of BitTorrent. For years, this has created a stalemate between the entertainment industries and technology. The former has found numerous ways to recuperate lost revenues, including the heinous tactic of suing college kids for piracy.
Also read: Popular Torrent Release Group YIFY Is Dead
And while it may be true that BitTorrent is largely used for sharing illegal files, it is also true that the software is merely software, agnostic of your intent. That is to say, it could just as easily be used by someone like the Foo Fighters to distribute an album which might get costly to do from a centralized service. (Ironically, the new Foo Fighters album is already available on torrent sites, despite being available from a fast, central server.) Grohl and company could offload the cost of distribution onto the users since they have no intention to control the distribution of the files. Statistics become significantly harder to gather, but this can be dealt with by asking users to fill out a survey or something, inside the Torrent directory.
Rather than paying the bandwidth costs exclusively at one level, the band could let millions of people pay a small amount via their time or cable bills. For most people, there’d be no additional cost, and the files would be more reliably available (in the case of Amazon going down). Torrents could have helped Radiohead when they released In Rainbows for free, as well.
Despite popular belief, torrent files are integral to plenty of legitimate purposes. For example, the Xubuntu project uses a torrent file to distribute their ~1 gigabyte operating system. They also have centralized servers providing the file, but surely they would prefer that everyone be able to get the files via Torrent. Were it not for the stigma, perhaps this would be more feasible.
Decentralization may have the feature of making it impossible to shut down, and Torrent directories (such as the Pirate Bay) may have wound up taking the brunt of the impact from governmental and legal ire, but it also has the benefit of a distributed server model. The Torrent technology has also been utilized for competitors to Dropbox and the like, like TorrentSync. Point is, it’s not going anywhere, and as long as the reality is that many people are using it to get content, then bands and record labels and even movie studios would benefit by using it to their advantage, rather than carrying on with some delusion that they’ll ever shut it down.
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