Twelve years ago BitTorrent was born – a file-transfer protocol that had its ups and downs, jumping through hoops and fire, but most of all, helping internet users transfer large files between each other. At the time being, it is speculated that BitTorrent claims more active users than any other social networks combined, including Facebook and YouTube, but is the peer-to-peer protocol used just for pirating?
According to several reports, BitTorrent is currently accounting for about 70% of all the internet traffic. Why? Because it’s efficient, fast, and can handle huge amounts of data. These qualities combined easily lured pirates into using BitTorrent for copyright infringement. Starting with 2010, an estimated number of 200.000 BitTorrent users were sued on grounds of copyright infringement. What followed is no secret – a super-massive anti-piracy campaign led by groups such as the RIAA and the MPAA. But is BitTorrent all about piracy or is there a legal side of it?
“No one here would dispute that file sharing networks are used by those who would violate copyright. But this is not solely the domain of P2P; copyrighted software has been traded on electronic bulletin board systems (BBSs) since their inception and has permeated every public communication protocol on the Internet. Filesharing is a social phenomenon, not a technological one – demonizing P2P based on one use of the technology is a mistake in my opinion. P2P already has positive mainstream benefits in certain communities and new uses are being found all the time,” a blogger wrote on this matter.
The mentioned benefits are not to be neglected. Let’s take a look:
Film, video, and music
- The company (BitTorrent) has managed to obtain a number of licenses from Hollywood’s studios in order to promote and distribute popular content.
- Sub Pop Records uses BitTorrent Inc. to release and distribute its content (both audio and video).
- Podcasting software is beginning to integrate BitTorrent to help users download content on demand. e.g. Juice and Miro.
- DGM Live purchases are provided through BitTorrent.
- Vodo, a distributor of films, uses the peer-to-peer protocol.
- In the year 2008, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had made available on BitTorrent’s networks a full show (Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister) for everyone to download. It was the first public broadcaster in North America to do so.
- The Amazon S3, also known as the “Simple Storage Service”, is (obviously) an online storage web service (offered by Amazon) that has built-in BitTorrent support.
- Companies such as Blizzard Entertainment use BitTorrent to deliver content and game patches for various games, including Diablo III, StarCraft II, WoW (Word of Warcraft). Furthermore, the games themselves are using peer-to-peer technology.
- Open source & free software projects support and encourage the use of peer-to-peer.
- Great Britain’s government once used BitTorrent to distribute details about how tax money was spent.
- Florida State University puts BitTorrent to good use by distributing large scientific data sets to its researchers.
- Many universities that have BOINC distributed computing projects have used the BitTorrent functionality of the client-server system to reduce the bandwidth costs of distributing the client side applications used to process the scientific data.
- Popular social networks, including Facebook and Twitter use BitTorrent for updates.
- The Internet Archive has added Bittorrent to its file download options. By doing this, the non-profit organization greatly improved their download speeds.
Despite these obvious upsides (and the above list could be easily continued) BitTorrent remains a notorious name, one that’s mistakenly associated with (just) copyright infringement. When will this change?
Hopefully, very soon…