Piracy and Torrents

November 12, 2012

the pirate bayUsing torrents to download free stuff online is not old news. If you visit popular torrent sites like The Pirate Bay everyday, then you probably already have already used torrents and don’t need to read this. For those of you who don’t know what a torrent is, it is basically a file that connects you to other computers to download and upload data. These torrent files are handled by torrent client applications such as uTorrent. Torrents form a Peer to Peer (P2P) network, which is heavily dependent on sharing to be efficient. More specifically, it relies on seeders (distributors) and leechers (downloaders).

Examples of Torrents

For example, let’s say we found a torrent for an awesome game called Minecraft. If I had the full copy of the game and wanted to share it with other peers, I’d create a torrent and act as a seeder. Seeders have 100% of the desired file completed and serve no other purpose than to upload parts of it to leechers, who don’t have 100% completed. As a seeder, I am sending “pieces” of the game all around the world to many leechers. However, leechers don’t just solely download files from seeders, they also share a part of their downloaded data to other leechers for everyone’s benefit. This is why torrents are so efficient for downloading things.

Take a math professor (seeder) as another example. Let’s say he teaches the class some math (data), and that this data is only 100% “downloaded” if the student fully understands it. Maybe a few of his students fully understand it and decide to help the other students download the math concept. These students were leechers, but are now seeders since they have downloaded everything. The rest of the students who don’t completely understand are now leeching from the seeder students and the professor. However, not everyone is downloading the math concept at the same speed, and some require more time than others. Some are at 10%, some 50%, and some 99%. All of those leechers will start sharing downloadable data with each other plus download from seeders, so that a complete understanding of the math concept manifests quicker for those who don’t fully grasp it.

Pirating Stuff for Free

Of course piracy is illegal, but there is a very thin line between legally downloading something and illegally doing so. Before deciding whether to pirate something, you must ask yourself one simple question: who would care that I downloaded this?

The Bigger Picture

Although it is technically illegal to download any form of copyrighted material for free, most, if not all businesses, will look at the bigger picture. The two questions are, “Is piracy causing revenue loss?” and if so, “Will expending resources to prevent piracy earn more or less revenue for the business in the long run?”


You may think that piracy always causes revenue loss, but think again. Minecraft piracy actually increases revenue because one out of six purchase the full game, or premium account. This is why it’s no surprise that Notch, Minecraft’s original developer, suggested for people who couldn’t afford it. Allowing free copies of Minecraft to float around the internet simply widens the potential consumer base. Imagine if there was no way to play the game for free, then imagine how many people would stop playing the game or even consider trying it! How much revenue would be lost?

wii consoleLet’s take the Nintendo Wii for example. The Wii was launched in 2006, and its new motion sensor technology was huge for console games. At this time, a ton of homebrew applications, or custom firmware and programs, were actively developed by console hackers all over the world. Nintendo took a lot of resources to prevent piracy, including updates that would “brick” Wii consoles that contained homebrew. Additionally, they scared pirates by suing top distributors of Wii games. This move was smart because the Xbox and PS3 didn’t have motion sensing technology yet, meaning Nintendo was #1 in the market so it made sense to prevent piracy.

Nintendo in the 7th Generation Console Wars

Fast forward to 2010-2011, when Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move launched, allowing their systems to have motion sensing capabilities. At this time, the Wii was quickly losing its competitive edge because the other major gaming consoles surpassed its technology. With better graphics, motion sensing technology, faster CPUs, and better multiplayer functionality, Nintendo had no choice but to slowly pull back from its anti-piracy efforts. At this time, actually allowing piracy (with some minor exceptions) was good for business. Homebrew tutorials were all over Google, YouTube, and you name it. Additionally, many sites offered tutorials on how to download Wii games onto a USB drive or DVD to play for free with The Homebrew Channel. The idea of free games was the only competitive edge it had against Microsoft and Sony, so guess what? In the USA alone, the Wii sold the most units out of the other two, leading by 27 million units, which is no surprise. As for the Wii U, I predict Nintendo will do just as well, if not better. Like the 7th generation, Nintendo once again released their latest console earlier than Microsoft or Sony. Apparently, hackers may have already found the solution to download and play Wii U games for free, which surely will piss off Nintendo!

Corporate Giants

digital millennium copyright actDownloads usually consist of movies, TV shows, games, and miscellaneous software. We’ve heard of the DMCA and and all that jazz; laws that attempt to limit piracy. The biggest on the “do not download” lists are copyrighted material owned by major companies in the music and entertainment industry. Since this market lacks competition, an oligopoly is formed, and it makes sense to place emphasis on anti-piracy campaigns. Such companies will always lose money with piracy and must take preventative measures.

However, the more recent laws that lobbyists attempted to push such as SOPA and PIPA are for a different agenda. These laws obviously have been in the works for a long time now, but the way it tries to prevent piracy is wrong. SOPA and PIPA basically will turn free information into controlled information. Just like how independent journalists and researchers try to expose to truth (like WikiLeaks), the government will try to shut them down and push their own communism laws to censor the information. The latest advancements in internet censorship is powered by ITU, or the International Telecommunication Union. Here’s a video:

Everyone Does It, Why Not Me?

I suppose you should feel bad if you pirate stuff for free online, but one thing you should be afraid of is your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Some ISPs throttle or monitor specific types of downloads. Be careful of music, movies, and TV show downloads, as people with big money can afford to harass you by contacting your ISP, and possibly cause internet termination. Be extremely, extremely cautious if you plan on being the primary distributor of copyrighted material (I strongly adviseĀ  against being the first ones to release a title). Of course there are ways to keep your privacy (or piracy?) hidden with proxies, but I won’t even go into that. I don’t claim to be an expert in this field, nor do I claim to participate in piracy. What you decide to do with this information is entirely up to you, and in no way does this site condone piracy in any form. I thought I’d let you guys know what is going on in the real world, and not be distracted by scare tactics from corporate giants.

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