Bittorrent Asks Musicians For Their Trust
Category: Music | Started by: sTomoe | Created at: 04/08/2015 21:17 | Seen: 441 times
BitTorrent says it wants musicians to embrace its platform and share their music with the masses.
The lobbying group that represents the music industry replies to that: Try harder.
The Recording Industry Association of America has fired the most recent shot in the long war over digital piracy, calling out BitTorrent executives for trying to whitewash its role in disseminating illegal copies of copyrighted music.
Recently, BitTorrent has sought to strike a friendlier tone recently, positioning the company's software as a tool that can be used by artists. BitTorrent is one of the few remaining popular peer-to-peer software services, having outlasted others that have succumbed to legal challenges. When you download a BitTorrent app, it gives you a file that lets you download a large file — like a movie or song — from other users, called "seeders," who are online and also have that file.
The problem: BitTorrent is a hotbed of piracy, preventing movie stars, studios, music labels and musicians from tracking where their music is going and — crucially — allowing people to avoid paying for it.
That's why the RIAA issued a letter to BitTorrent late last week, pushing the company to do more to combat piracy.
The letter from RIAA executive vice president Brad Buckles makes clear that the organization is not going to stay quiet while BitTorrent executives tout the software as beneficial to musicians.
The letter particularly calls out BitTorrent Chief Content Officer Matt Mason, who is quoted as saying that piracy happens "outside the BitTorrent ecosystem" and that users that illegally exchange files are "doing it wrong."
The RIAA says BitTorrent applications were the facilitator on 75% of the piracy infractions the organization filed in 2014. While some reports have found that illegal downloads have declined thanks to the rise of streaming, the International Federation of the Phono Graphic Industry recently estimated that BitTorrent was responsible for 4 billion music downloads in 2014, the vast majority of which it claims were illegal.
It can seem at times that the RIAA has already won, having helped shut down numerous sites like Napster and Limewire. That makes piracy appear less of an existential threat to the music industry than it did during the heady days of Grokster and Kazaa, but illegal file sharing remains a serious issue for the music industry. Cisco data has found growth in online file sharing in the U.S. in recent years.
Victoria Sheckler, deputy counsel of the RIAA, appeared to have no patience with BitTorrent's self-defense.
"Like it or not, BitTorrenting products are the premier products used for peer-to-peer infringement today," she said.
BitTorrent, however, has evaded their grasp. Numerous attempts have been made to shut down various web indexes that provide link to BitTorrent files such as The Pirate Bay, but those sites have also proved difficult to squash.
Meanwhile, BitTorrent has positioned itself as a legitimate file-sharing service, said Russ Crupnick, managing director of market research firm MusicWatch, something that has helped it keep the music industry and its lawyers at bay.
Still, they know there's an issue.
"The industry is just saying, 'Look, we respect your right offer a service that facilitates file sharing. Our issue is the illegal music downloading that goes on on that platform,'" Crupnick said.
Sheckler said that BitTorrent has been saying one thing in public and another behind closed doors.
"In private discussions that various people have had with BitTorrent over the last few years, they've refused to address the elephant in the room, which is the piracy over the BitTorrent protocol," Sheckler said.
In the past few years, the RIAA has been able to convince a variety of companies to help it limit music piracy. Sheckler said that search engines including Google and Bing had done their part by demoting results that led users to pirated material, marketers had pulled advertising off sites that hosted pirated content and payment processors stopped operating on sites that infringed on copyrights.
A spokesman for BitTorrent noted that the company has been in contact with the RIAA for more than 10 years. He also noted that the company has created new products to help artists and labels such as Bundle, which provides increased control over certain files and includes a payments tool.
The RIAA could not comment on possible future legal action but did not rule it out. Sheckler stressed that there were relatively easy fixes that they have requested.
Included with the letter was a list of codes to certain files that had been widely pirated including tracks from Britney Spears, Coldplay, Kayne West and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The RIAA's letter proposed that this be the first in a series of verified files that could be blocked from exchange on the company's software.
Sheckler said it is a simple step toward alleviating the issue.
"If you have the means to do something about it, why don't you?" she said.