60 Minutes of Unchecked Facts

It's more like 42 minutes and 18 minutes of commercials.

By: Billy BeerSlugger

I didn’t actually see this episode of the investigative news/magazine 60 Minutes since the Phillies were on but from what I and other people on the internet can tell you, their editor needs to do a little better in the fact checking department.

Their segment was on how illegal downloading was costing Hollywood 6 billion a year, which may or may not be that far off, however, the reasoning they give to support this claim is pretty much fabrication or conjecture which ever way you want to look at it.

First there is the claim that Organized Crime (the Mafia?) is making most of it’s money off of counterfeit movies.  Now I’m not going to dispute the fact that there are bootlegged movies out there but 60 Minutes is having me believe that Tony Soprano is behind all of this and not some dude with a DVD burner in his basement looking for some extra cash. I mean I could at least warm up to the idea if 60 Minutes gave me any proof. There was some talk about gangs of pirates using mafia style pickups but the focus quickly turned to illegal downloading.

Second, there is the segments claims by director Steven Soderbergh that piracy is costing the movie industry 6 billion a year.  Neglected is the fact that Hollywood continues to make more and more money each year. Another Soderbergh assertion is that fewer movies are being made and will continue to be made because of piracy.  Another assertion debunked given the statistics on movies 567 movies made in 2004 and 1038 in 2008, almost doubling inside of 4 years and still increasing.

I’ll give you that if movie tickets continue to go up every year then revenues should go up every year but you can’t really say that in this kind of economy.  Bottom line Hollywood made more money last year than the year before and the year before that.

The segment also delved into the role Bit torrent plays into illegal downloading and then cutting to a guy saying, “what we have done for 15 years is not put in any speed bumps, any technological blocks in the way of individuals so that the conclusion that the younger generation in particular draws is that if it’s so easy it cant be wrong.”

Well yes it is easy, people can choose to share anything they want on Bit torrent and if they choose to share or download things illegally it is on the government and the copyright holders to find a solution that does not intrude on the openness of the internet. The blocks and speed bumps the guy interviewed in 60 minutes is advocating sound a lot like bandwidth throttling and packet sniffing, things which go against the principles of net neutrality.

While there are millions of Bittorrent users out there, I only know about 3 people who could use Bittorrent effectively enough to download music, movies and the like. So if it’s so easy and so popular, why don’t I know more people that do it? Why can they use iPhones and computers but have no idea how to use Bittorrent even after I wrote an article on it?

I digress, the real focus here is on 60 Minutes and it’s one sided affair with File Sharing and the Motion Picture Industry.  There were a few facts thrown in about how the movie Wolverine was leaked and still did extremely well at the box office but overall there was not a peep from anyone on the opposing side of issue of illegal downloading.  Further, the “so called facts” that they gave didn’t coincide with any of the generally accepted statistics reported all over the internet.

I wonder how much money CBS makes off of Movie Advertisements a year?  Could this be yet another sacrifice of journalism for advertising dollars?  The whole thing to me seemed like a propaganda piece for the MPAA, chock full of bogus facts and subjective estimations.

Maybe more people would go to see movies if 90% of them were not lacking in substance, didn’t recycle old stories, didn’t remake old movies or have plots which are so horribly obvious as to the outcome that all you really needed to see was the previews.

What about the film-makers who are using file sharing technology to get their movies seen by the masses or the ones exploring new business models like some in the music business are. Let’s not talk to the copyright professionals or consumer advocates who render baseless most of the MPAA’s claims 60 Minutes. That wouldn’t be a balanced approach to the issue, would it?

P.S: Maybe if Steven Soderbergh didn’t put out pieces of crap like The Girlfriend Experience people wouldn’t walk out of the movie theater requesting their money back like me.

Pirate Bay, The Pirate Party & The Court Case you don’t know about.

the_pirate_bay_logoBy: Billy Beerslugger

Bit Torrent is a peer to peer file sharing protocol.  Think of it as a way more accurate, efficient, and reliable Napster or LimeWire.  Bit Torrent traffic, by some estimates, makes up about 35% of all internet traffic.  It is by far the most popular protocol for large file sharing.

A Bit Torrent Client is essentially a program which manages downloads and uploads. There are many Bit Torrent Clients out there and apparently LimeWire supports to a limited extent Bit Torrents.  One of the more popular Bit Torrent Clients is uTorrent, very lightweight.

A Torrent (of the Genus and Species Bit) is really whatever you want it to be.  It can hold Mp3’s, movies, datasets, computer programs, Tv Shows… if it’s in a digital form you can probably put it in a Torrent.

A Bit Torrent Tracker is a web based interface which provides search functionality (much like Google) for Bit Torrents.

The Pirate Bay is a bit torrent tracker.  It is the most popular bit torrent tracker, ranked as the 106th most popular website by Alexa Internet and is the defendant (or at least the operaters are) of a major laswsuit.

On April 17, 2009 Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström were found guilty of assistance to copyright infringement and sentenced to one year in prison and payment of a fine of app. 3,620,000 USD after a 9 day trial.  The defendants are appealing the verdict, seeking a re-trial and recent news has come out that the judge presiding over the case was a member of Pro-Copyright groups.  The Website is still in operation.

In a scenario similar to others regarding prosecuting file sharing sites/companies, membership to The Pirate Bay surged following the verdict.  The more media coverage of the site and what it does, the more it’s members continue to grow.

In Sweden, which is the headquarters of The Pirate Bay, supporters of the site have formed their own political party.  It is currently the 4th largest political party in terms of members in Sweden.  It’s ranks grew by about 20% in the hours following the verdict and increases by the minute.  The number of young members in the party put it at number one in that demographic.

The Pirate Bay and Bit Torrent in general have been the subject of much debate in the United States and Internationally.  Not only for the issue of copyright infringement but from throttling bit torrent traffic, packet sniffing and other ways Internet Service Providers have tried to limit access to Bit Torrents.

Whether or not you personally support the prosecution of The Pirate Bay, file sharing is not going away.  Movie Studios and Record Labels need to find a way to a way to distribute their content and sustain profit off of it.   Old ways of doing this like Cd’s and Dvd’s are not going to cut it in our computer/gadget centric society.  Optimally the solution they come up with does not impede upon how you use the Internet or Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality

Network neutrality (equivalently net neutrality, Internet neutrality) is a principle proposed for residential broadband networks and potentially for all networks. A neutral broadband network is one that is free of restrictions on content, sites, or platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and on the modes of communication allowed, as well as one where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams. (From Wikipedia)

Essentially the issue is whether or not the IPS’s should be able to restrict traffic or bandwidth based on the type of data or website or the ability of ISP’s to effectively censor or prefer certain websites/data over others.

Comcast as I have read has been “throttling” bit torrent traffic for some time now. Not getting rid of Bit Torrent traffic but slowing it down greatly. (The discussion on Bit Torrent whether used legally or illegally is for another day).

From a business standpoint, it makes sense for these Companies like Comcast to try and make as much money off their product as possible (Internet Connection/Bandwith). After all this is a free market and those CEO’s are paid to make money for their companies. It’s a no brainer for the Service providers to try to exploit it. Just like Corporations did to Radio and Television.

However, this is the internet. And we at Beerslugger.com support Net Neutrality. We want our site to be treated just the same as MSN.com or Google or any one of the millions of Porn sites out there. We don’t want our news/content to be censored or unavailable should an ISP (Corporate America) deem it so.

The internet is a place of freedom essential to our modern way of life. Don’t take it for granted and don’t let it go away.

Visit http://www.savetheinternet.com for more details.