[bittorrent] Anonymity (was: New P2P protocols)

Bill Cox bill at billrocks.org
Sun Mar 27 08:08:56 EST 2005

On Fri, 2005-03-25 at 07:55 -0800, Kenneth Porter wrote:
> --On Friday, March 25, 2005 2:01 AM -0800 Bill Cox <bill at viasic.com> wrote:
> > The goal of gnutella seems to be:
> >
> > -- Low cost (almost free), sharing/pirating of
> > copyrighted data, with
> > minimal chance of getting caught.  Most commonly,
> > sharing of copyrighted
> > music.
> <http://www.gnutella.com/news/4210>
> Nothing in there about stealing music. And I see plenty of Torrent users 
> asking for copyrighted video.

True.  In reality, it's probably BT's robust ability to download
copyrighted feature-length movies that made it popular.

A major problem we'll have, should we come up with any P2P system
whatsoever, is how to make it popular.

> An important feature of Gnutella is anonymity. That can be used to get 
> around oppressive governments as well as publishers worried about 
> competition from new technology. While it hasn't been an objective of BT, 
> it's a feature worth considering, perhaps as an extension.

This is a fun thread to pull on...  Do you think I can turn it into a
discussion about the future of the world?  Here's some of my thoughts:

-- You can't stop pirating of content with software.

Content eventually has to be displayed or played, and you can always
capture it at that point.  They'll keep trying, but they'll keep

-- Governments can effectively stop most pirating, with aggressive

As an extreme example, let's say there's a government that passes a law
that anyone downloading an x-rated movie will be put to death, and that
they force ISPs to cooperate, and have content police bug everyone's
internet connection.  I'm guessing that there wouldn't be many x-rated
videos downloaded.  I don't see any way around it.

In the US, I think all it would take is forcing ISPs to cooperate.  For
example, ISPs could turn off your internet access if there is suspicious
activity, like downloading encrypted data from 100 different peers over
a short period of time, or downloading unencrypted data that's on a list
of copyrighted works from a non-approved site.

-- If you're in a country that honestly tries to protect copyrights,
enjoy free copyrighted movies, music, and software while it lasts,
because it will probably go away.

I believe that governments generally try protect industries that
generate lots of money.  This is not always bad -- it protects a lot of
jobs.  The music and movie industries generate lots of money.

In the US, I think the music and movie industries will get the
government to force ISPs to cooperate, and they will have to turn off
your internet access if there is suspicious activity.  I think they will
also pressure to other governments to do the same thing, and while it
will take years, the pressure will eventually succeed.  I think the main
reason it hasn't happened already is that governments are quite slow.

-- If you're in a country that ignores copyrights, you'll still get free
movies, music and software.  But, you probably don't get paid well.

Without government intervention, all digital works can be freely shared.
This virtually eliminates the market for digital works in countries that
ignore copyrights.  It seems to me that the only way to get paid to
create digital works in such countries is by exporting your work to
other countries, either directly for sale, or by sub-contracting to
foreign companies.  The main reason this makes sense is that skilled
labor in your country is cheap.  That probably means you aren't paid
very much compared to someone in the US doing the same job.

-- If you're in a country that ignores copyrights, will you ever get
paid well?  Will countries like India and China continue to have a huge
low-wage population of skilled labor for the long term?

While there are hundreds of millions of peasants in India and China who
may happily make cheap furniture and live in simple villages for
generations to come, people with college educations doing skilled labor
on computers will probably want to live typical middle-class lives with
things like electricity, their own computers, internet access, toilets
that flush, and probably even cars and enough money to send their own
kids to college, and enough money to retire on.  They might even want
health care.  That doesn't add up to cheap labor.

Eventually, people tend to get paid what they're worth.  There are many
examples of this.  Are many of you guys old enough to remember when
skilled labor in Japan was cheap?  Remember when "Made in Japan" meant
low-cost and low-quality?  In the 60's, I had a bunch of "Made in Japan"
toys.  They all broke.

However, to get paid well, there needs to be a market in your country
for digital works.  At some point, when India and China get tired of
simply sub-contracting to foreign companies, they'll start enforcing
copyrights, which will allow them to form their own high-tech startups
that create digital works that sell well in their own countries.  Even
Russia will get into the act, but that wont happen until India and China
give up the low-wage sub-contracting business to Russia.

If they don't, billions of people will remain under-paid, exploited, and
unhappy, potentially destablizing the entire world, possibly even
leading to nuclear war, and the destruction of the entire world!

I told you I could turn it into a discussion about the future of the
world.  ;-D


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