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The War On File Sharing is the New War On Drugs

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File sharing

“It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.” — Aaron Swartz

Federal authorities recently arrested the owner of the website Kickass Torrents, Artem Vaulin. KAT, as it was commonly known, had, following the end of the Pirate Bay and subsequent jailing of its owners in Sweden, become one of the world’s most visited websites and certainly the go-to place for torrents. As the reader is probably aware, there’s no good way to limit the content of a torrent – the torrent protocol is a dumb pipe, similar to other transfer protocols, and simply transfers data. In its case, it uses the power of peer-to-peer networking. Thus the primary use of KAT was “pirated” content, or bootleg copies of music, movies, games, and other forms of intellectual property.

The war on filesharing has gone on for virtually the entirety of the web’s history. In the early days of the Internet, it was commonplace to share code and other things. The spirit of the new generation was, indeed, sharing. As bandwidth increased throughout the 1990s, people moved from using BBS systems and the Kermit protocol to using more advanced ways of sharing, including plainly out on the web. The mid-to-late 1990s is when the FBI began taking it more seriously, at the behest of various industries, including the software industry. This 1997 article from the San Francisco Examiner outlines an important part of the situation:

Accompanied by corporate representatives to identify the software, FBI agents took the computer systems off-line and confiscated the equipment and other documents.

Did the reader catch that? Corporate representatives accompanied the FBI on raids. In all of this anti-piracy business, the FBI has essentially acted as the attack dog of private industry. In the same way that commercial drug manufacturers are a massive lobby in keeping marijuana, the most commonly prosecuted substance in the ongoing “War on Drugs,” intellectual property-based industries have a vested interest in ensuring that there are steep penalties for sharing files. However, it’s not only the actual owners of the content who would like copies of 20-year-old movies to remain at premium prices, but other vendors, including the likes of Netflix and Hulu, as well.

The War on Drugs has been going on since the Nixon administration, and during its 40 years, the rate of drugs entering the country and the rate of drug use have done everything but decline. Some states have begun to rebel, moving toward treatment policies and in the case of marijuana, even legalization. The War on Drugs has nothing to do with morality or public health and everything to do with money. Police agencies nationwide make millions from asset seizure related to drug raids. The end of the drug war would equate to a severe budget gap for some agencies. In a similar way, without the FBI to do their bidding, intellectual property owners would have to find more inventive ways to attract money.

But that’s not really the problem, either. The real problem with both the War on Drugs and the War on Digital Piracy is that they are not winnable wars. You cannot dictate human behavior from on high, and as long as there are networked computers, there will be ways of sharing files. The torrent protocol is only the latest to become popular. This generation also saw Napster, which had a fundamental flaw of being centralized. These efforts by the government are massive wastes of money in the end, at least in accomplishing their goal. This article is not meant to suggest alternative approaches, but rather to underline the parallels of the two movements.

As soon as Kickass Torrents was taken offline, people worldwide began working on clone sites. And, more to the point, KAT was not the only torrent site left standing. IsoHunt is a long-standing provider of torrent files, and Usenet remains another option for those who do not want to buy all their content from the myriad of subscription and a la carte media providers. Information wants to be free, as Stewart Brand said, and by this he did not mean freedom, but free of charge. This argument is based on the idea that the cost of delivering information (or content) has severely dropped over the years, and so too should the cost.

Information wants to be expensive, at the same time, because it is valuable. Brand pointed out that this tension will never go away. In one browser tab a user can acquire a recently released movie for free, and in another tab he can choose to pay for it on Amazon.

The War on Digital Piracy is a war of attrition. Any perceived “gains” are immediately squashed by the proliferation of alternatives. As long as there is a demand for alternative sources of content, people will provide it. Were every torrent site to be taken off the clear net, the dark web could quickly provide alternatives. After all, these sites do not actually serve any content, just links to torrent files and magnet links. The torrent protocol itself does not actually require sites to list the files, and people could continue to distribute them in other ways. No matter what the government does. No matter what the industries do.

Prosecuting people for linking to content is a dangerous constitutional precedent. It’s like saying that giving directions to a criminal is a crime. The prosecution of Artem Vaulin, Fredrik Neij, and Peter Sunde (of the Pirate Bay) is criminal. If anything, the people actually distributing pirated content should be the target of the government. But this also raises the question: should the government be expending precious resources to go to war for industries that make millions and billions of dollars per year, or shouldn’t it be dedicated those resources to more important pursuits, such as anti-terrorism investigations?

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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5 stars on average, based on 2 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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  1. NorBdelta

    August 2, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Definitely akin to the war on drugs, the lengths some corporations are going is absurd.

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Altcoins

Why Investors Should Pay Attention to Golem

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Did you know most of us only use a fraction of our computers’ capacity? Thinking about it, you wouldn’t expect most of the tasks we do on a daily basis to take up much computing power. So what do you think happens to the rest of your capacity?

It sits idle, and nothing is done with it. Your computer is still on and consuming electricity and this power goes to waste. Based on this exact “problem” Golem has come up with a solution that ends up being a lot like AirBnb for your computer.

Golem has created a peer-to-peer system for sharing computing power across the network. The result is a flexible, scalable solution that aggregates idle resources and democratizes the payout to the millions of people on the network.

Golem’s Long Road to an ICO

It took 3 years, but Golem finally completed the sale of their GNT token in early April 2018. The platform is built on ETH and utilizes smart contracts to drastically bring down the cost of distributed computing. The sale was completed in under 20 minutes and raised 820,000 ETH ($340 million).

How it works is that suppliers have extra computing power and are willing to be paid GNT in exchange for their computers performing tasks for requesters.

The app is 100% secure and operates in the background, and you can also choose what fraction of your computing power to use, so there’s no worry about getting slowed down by its operation. Ideally, the only time you would notice it is when you earn some ETH for performing tasks for other users.

Golem’s Economics

The mechanics of the market are pretty simple. There is demand (requesters) and supply (providers). The supply is essential, because there are no central servers that are able to perform computations. Providers will come to the network with the goal of earning a few dollars a month in ETH, at virtually no cost to themselves.

On the demand side, you have users who buy GNT tokens in order to pay for providers to perform tasks for them. Requesters generally join the network because of its lower cost. They are able to set the maximum they will pay (their bid) and Golem distributes the tasks appropriately.

A final party to consider are the software developers who enjoy access to a distribution channel that helps them depoy and monetize new software. Golem has a store that enables this function and adds much more value to the network.

The obvious competitors to Golem are big cloud services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The fact is that these services are grossly overpriced because the companies have developed an oligopoly that allows them to collect high margins. This is crazy because computing power is not actually a scarce resource and this is the market inefficiency Golem aims to fix.

Golem’s Long Game

Golem is currently trading at a fraction of a dollar ($0.145) and is down from a high above $1.00. The same downturn has affected many companies in the blockchain space, and Golem has received extra flak for taking so long to release their product. At the same time, another way to look at this is as a major buying opportunity.

Most of this has to do not with ineptitude, but a complex framework (Ethereum) that isn’t perfectly designed for integration yet. However, in the long-run Golem still has huge potential. As more features are released (Clay Golem is next) and they scale to be able to help data centres, there is no limit to how far they can go. The size of the market has been proven by Amazon and Microsoft, and now it is up to Golem to see if they can get a piece of the pie.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Bitcoin

Dan Morehead Weighs In on Bitcoin’s Seventh Bear Market

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Bear markets are nothing new for bitcoin, with the latest devaluation marking the seventh such occurrence since 2009. According to Pantera Capital’s Dan Morehead, now is the ideal time to increase your position. He also had a few choice words for the traditional banking industry.

Bitcoin: Time To Buy

In a recent interview, Morehead described blockchain investments as the most “asymmetric risk-reward trade” he has ever seen. In other words, if you invest in blockchain, there’s no way you can lose everything. What’s more, many of the funds currently invested in bitcoin can increase their value 25 times.

With bitcoin hovering around $6,300, now is “actually a good time to increase your position,” Morehead said, as quoted by CCN.

“It’s highly likely to be the low point for the industry,” he said, reminding investors that the bitcoin price has been steadily increasing since 2009. “My normal view is that it’s going to return to its trend.”

Since inception, bitcoin has had only one down year (2015). In all other years, the cryptocurrency has returned at least 145%.

Morehead also responded to Warren Buffett’s claim that bitcoin is “rat poison squared.”

“It is rat poison; it’s just the banks and credit card companies are the rats.”

As Hacked recently reported, Pantera Capital has engineered returns of more than 10,000% since its inception.

Institutional Money

Despite the recent downturn, 2018 is shaping up to be the year of the crypto hedge fund. A total of 96 cryptocurrency funds have come into existence this year, according to Crypto Fund Research. This figure is expected to reach 165 in 2018 compared with 156 all of last year.

There are now 466 cryptocurrency funds around the world, with more than half coming into existence since the start of 2017. Crypto hedge funds account for more than half of the total.

The crypto market is expected to receive a huge boost from institutional capital once regulators change existing rules allowing for bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to be listed. The launch of Bakkt – a startup company backed by Intercontinental Exchange, Microsoft and Starbucks – is also expected to streamline mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency both at the investor and consumer levels.

Leading digital currency exchanges such as Coinbase are expanding custody services to appeal to Wall Street. Crypto custody is one of the biggest developments currently underway in the industry.

However, institutional involvement in crypto may be a double-edged sword. Multiple researchers, including the San Francisco Federal Reserve, believe institutional meddling is responsible for the 2018 bear market. They cite the launch of bitcoin futures in December as the main catalyst for the selloff.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 550 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Opinion

Bankers and Bitcoin

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Something special happens when someone becomes threatened by an idea. They often lash out with their reasons for believing that it won’t work, but don’t address the fact they have a vested interest in it not working. This is exactly what is starting to occur with bankers commenting on Bitcoin.

You hear all the standard criticisms from these people: that it enables crime, that the cryptocurrency isn’t backed by anything, and governments will never let Bitcoin survive.

This is true of all politics and most arguments. People argue from a point of self-interest that they never unpack, so it becomes hard to take their viewpoint seriously when it is just a thinly veiled defense of themselves.

Disruption of a Monopoly

The banking industry has been a source of wealth to many people over the last few decades, but in the last few years the trend of working in tech has emerged as the smarter move for young graduates. The skills are said to be in higher demand and the chances of making the big bucks are greatly improved.

So in a way, cryptocurrency just represents one more threat against the financial industry. Now tech has gotten so big it threatens to completely replace parts of the financial industry, and they don’t like that. The big banks have had a monopoly on the consumer financial sector for decades, and this is about to change.

To be fair, this is completely reasonable, but blockchain technology is coming, and even if Bitcoin isn’t the coin to topple the financial system, there will be numerous innovations based on the same technology. The result will be an industry upended by automation and more trustworthy systems.

Criticizing Bitcoin

There are many valid criticisms of Bitcoin, but when someone argues so vociferously that they don’t address the issues with these criticisms, it hampers their argument. The truth is not a lot of people know what is going to happen and the market for cryptocurrencies is almost irrationally exuberant.

The problems with the criticisms of bankers is they don’t take into account the most important part of cryptocurrencies: decentralization. And that’s because their jobs and careers are based on centralization, or the idea that one person can be smarter and more trustworthy than the entire system. As long as they continue to see Bitcoin as a replacement for the dollar rather than an evolution of money, they will miss the point.

When people argue against the utility of Bitcoin, they falsely go after the micro-level mechanism. There are definitely problems here, as have been demonstrated by scaling issues, forks, and hacks of exchanges. But we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. The ideas behind Bitcoin that allow for a decentralized management of a money system are clearly a step forward. To be against decentralization is to be against progress.

Karma Finally Strikes

Perhaps the funniest part of bankers protesting the spread of Bitcoin is they created the conditions that bred its necessity. The financial collapse of 2008 and every other collapse before that have been proof of too much trust being put in a centralized system. It has become clear that no single group can be trusted to run the entire economy, especially with so much at stake. It is no coincidence that Bitcoin was first released at this time.

Knowing this, we can start to think about whether these financial crises would have occurred if we were using decentralized applications. Obviously, we can’t know for sure, and it is likely something bad still would have happened, but it could have been greatly reduced by democratizing the management of the economic system.

This “democratization” is the act of letting everyone vote on whether a transaction is viable or not. The system solves the ‘double-spend’ problem by looking for a relative consensus in the network. If one person is claiming something that is out of sync with what everyone else is claiming, it can be “voted” out of existence.

To the common person, this looks and feels a lot better than having an arbitrator control the fate of his or her financial future. That is where the appeal comes to many of those who are disenchanted by the current economic system and are looking for a change.

So there is a very valid case for the decentralized aspect within Bitcoin. Whether Bitcoin will be the one to bring it to fruition or if it will be a different currency is yet to be seen.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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