BitTorrent gets a lot of bad press. I’m a self-confessed geek and I’d been led to believe (largely by mainstream media it has to be said) that it was all about illegal downloads of copyrighted music and video and, to a large extent, that is the main use of the technology today; however it’s also potentially an immensely powerful medium for content distribution.
I’ve heard some great remixes recently of Snow Patrol’s Open Your Eyes. I waited for the single release (last Tuesday), went to iTunes and there was just a basic single with two tracks, just like the old days of buying 7″ vinyl (showing my age now). In the 90s I bought a lot of CD singles – with 3-6 tracks (mostly remixes) until the chart rules limited the number of tracks on a CD single (an anti-consumer practice if ever I saw one, as most record companies started releasing two versions of a CD single instead with different content, bringing in twice the revenue). Anyway, I digress – there was no sign of the Redanka remix that I wanted. A bit of googling turned up the track I wanted at AllOfMP3 for just $0.39 (but did I really want to hand over my credit card details to a website of dubious legality for such a small sum?) – googling also turned up versions on YouTube and various torrent sites but I was prepared to part with cash to buy this legally!
I went to the official website for the band and asked where I could get the tracks legally… no response. In fact my comment wasn’t even approved by the moderators!
It seems to me that record companies are not helping themselves here – but making different content available in different markets (as well as online/offline), they fragment the market and frustrate the consumer. Little wonder really that people turn to underground download sites…
Now, I’m not encouraging anything that might be illegal here but this blog has an international audience and not everywhere respects the UK’s copyright legislation. If one was to be driven down the torrent route then this is what they might find…
There are many torrent sites that offer content, both legal and illegal for download. I’m not going to link any here but they can be found by using your favourite search engine. If you want to know how to get started, then check out the TorrentSpy Forums‘ guide to BitTorrent for total newbies as well as how to use Torrents (a basic introduction to BitTorrent vocabulary may also be useful). There are also articles at TorrentFreak which look interesting including summaries of the popular BitTorrent clients for Mac OS X and Windows – many of these are also available for Linux.
There is one very important rule, if you download, then remember to leave your BitTorrent client running once the download is complete to seed the content for others (don’t be a leech). It’s this distributed distribution that’s the big advantage of the BitTorrent technology – leaving aside any illegal content, let’s imagine that I am a media producer trying to distribute content without any big business capital or sponsorship. Instead of running a website with potentially huge bandwidth costs, that cost is shared by those who download the content and make it available for others. Other examples of legal torrent use include distribution of certain software (e.g. Linux distributions) and podcasts and as people realise the potential of peer-to-peer technologies (of which BitTorrent is only one form), they will gain increased acceptance.