I’m fucking angry right now, and it’s politics that have got me this way. This is surprising to me, as I am fairly apolitical. I didn’t vote in the last U.S. presidential election because the guy I’d like to see in the White House, Ralph Nader, wasn’t running. I fancy myself a Social Anarchist, which is just a politically correct way of saying, “Fuck you, let’s work this out together and then go party”.
The igniter of my anger can be sourced to an email I received a few weeks ago from Tim Westergren, one of the founders of Pandora Internet Radio. He was mass emailing listeners to let them know about a new change, or rather, a new limitation being set up by the company where mobile listeners (I use the Pandora App on Android) will be limited to 40 hours of free streaming a month and will have to pay to continue listening after the limit is reached. According to the letter, here’s why:
“Pandora’s per-track royalty rates have increased more than 25% over the last three years, including 9% in 2013 alone and are scheduled to increase an additional 16% over the next two years. After a close look at our overall listening, a 40-hour per month mobile listening limit allows us to manage our costs with minimal listener disruption.”
They claim that less than 4% of listeners will be effected by this, but that I am potentially one of those listeners based on my usage rate. I listen to Pandora on my phone an average of 2-3 hours a day.
After some more investigating I discovered that legislation known as the Internet Radio Fairness Act had been introduced in 2012, attempting to reduce the amount of royalties it pays to record labels to use their music, but was effectively shot down by record label interest groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America. It is currently in hibernation, waiting to be resurrected.
Pandora pays half it’s earnings to royalty fees, while air radio continues to operate royalty free. This is messed up, this makes me angry, and this isn’t the first time the RIAA has smashed its iron hand down on the freedom of sharing. They’ve been hard at work suppressing the Internet’s ability to trade music since 1999.
That was the year Napster was launched, and it got people trading MP3’s like they were Pokemon cards. It took all of six months for the RIAA to press charges on Napster for copyright infringement. Napster lost and was effectively shut down only 2 years after it had started.
This wasn’t the end of music file sharing however. Several more services popped up to take Napster’s place, and they began offering more than just music. Around the same time Napster was getting shut down, a new protocol was being developed called BitTorrent. It allows for the sharing of data across peer-to-peer networks. That’s a fancy way of saying you connect to other users and download files directly from them, no information is stored on third-party servers, and the instructions for what to download are contained in small torrent files.
With the help of a client program that reads the torrent files, it finds everyone else on the web who’s currently sharing that file and downloads from them. So instead of getting the entire file directly from one person, you get small bits of it from tens, hundreds, even thousands of people simultaneously that add up to the whole thing, whether it be a movie, book, music, TV show, software, phone app, porn…etc.
It’s pretty neat, the sharing of information has never been so easily accessible. This has caused a lot of backlash from the corporate industries, and they have tried unsuccessfully to block file sharing in a variety of ways.
SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was the most blatant attempt at criminalizing file sharing. Had the bill been approved, advertisers would be banned from doing business with infringing websites, search engines would have to remove links to them, and all Internet Service Providers would have been court ordered to block the websites. SOPA was censorship, plain and simple.
Failing to pass the Act, the RIAA searched for a new route and they found a back door. With the help of the White House, they approached the ISPs directly and came up with a “six strike” proposal, formally known as the Copyright Alert System.
Back in 2008, the RIAA had a “three strike” idea, which would have seen ISPs cutting off your service after a third warning for transferring copyrighted information across a peer-to-peer network. No one would touch that. ISPs want paying customers. Banning them would be bad for business. So the CAS is a workaround that keeps everybody happy.
I must stress this new system is not a law, but it is a veritable slap in the face from the music industry, the Internet Service Providers, and our own government. Every time they log you as downloading or uploading on a P2P network copyrighted files you are given a warning, with the fifth and sixth warnings getting your Internet throttled (i.e. maximum download/upload rates reduced) for a couple days.
After the sixth warning, nothing more happens, but you are forever blacklisted by the ISPs and the RIAA could take legal action in a class-action lawsuit against you anytime in the foreseeable future.
Pretty fucked up, right?
The five largest ISPs in the country, AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon have all agreed to using this new system and including it in your terms of service, by continuing your current service or accepting new service you are automatically agree to these terms. The full details of the Copyright Alert System can be found here.
This is the new world we have passively chosen for ourselves, by allowing our corporations and our government to decide for us. This is a world where if one wants to check out an album before paying their hard earned cash for it they could be treated as a criminal. A fucking criminal.
So yeah, I’m angry.
You know what I’m going to do about it? I’m going to continue to pirate. I am a consumer like the rest of you. I buy my fair share of information, material goods, fast food, or whatever. I’m writing this on a brand new computer I purchased from Hewlett-Packard that they manufactured for probably a tenth of what I paid for it.
And I want you, all of you, (YES, YOU!) to pirate, too. Show the industry that is trying to control how we digest our media that we will continue to do it freely if we so choose. If you’re already using BitTorrents to share information, good for you. If not, here’s a step by step guide to get you going.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THE RIAA, YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER, AND THE GOVERNMENT YOU PAY TAXES TO MAY CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS TO BE CRIMINAL AND IF THEY SPY ON YOU USING A PEER-TO-PEER NETWORK TO SHARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL THEY POTENTIALLY HAVE THE RIGHT TO SUE YOU IN A COURT OF LAW. TO PROTECT MYSELF AND THE OWNERS OF IMPERIAL YOUTH REVIEW I WILL NOT LINK TO ANY WEBSITES. I WILL INSTEAD SUGGEST GOOGLE SEARCHES. THE REST IS UP TO YOU.
PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
J.W. Wargo’s Simple and Mostly Not Self Incriminating Guide to Torrent File Sharing
1. First things first, you’re going to need BitTorrent client software to share files with. Google search “bittorrent client”. The top 2 or 3 results will the best/most popular clients currently in use. You will find downloads and installation/usage instructions on their’ websites.
2. Now you need a Torrent file. There are a few search engine sites on the web to help you find them. Google Search “torrent search engine” and your first few results should be what you’re looking for.
3. On a Torrent search engine website, search for something you’re interested in downloading, whether it be music, movies, games, applications…etc.
4. Once you have located the torrent you want (most search engine sites will allow you to see what files are included in the download), download it or open it directly in your client program. NOTE: Due to law enforcement agencies coming down on them, some search engine sites are no longer offering direct downloads of torrents, but rather what they call “magnet links”. You must have a client program that supports this links in order to use them.
5. Once you open the torrent file or magnet link in your client software, either a click or two will start it downloading or it will start automatically, depending on the software. You can see the status of your download, and also see number of “seeders” (i.e. number of people with the entire file/files that are currently sharing) and “leechers” (i.e. number of people with a partial amount of the file, they may still be downloading themselves but whatever amount they already have is shareable).
6. After the file has finished downloading it will automatically begin to seed. As long as you have the client software running you will help share that file with others who wish to download it. This is reflected in your “share ratio” which shows how much you share vs. how much you download. It is generally considered acceptable to keep a 1 to 1 ratio (share as much as you download, if your ratio is lower than that some users may not wish to share with you. Before Demonoid, one of the most popular torrent sites, was shut down, my share ration on the website was over 2.5 to 1, as in I shared over two and a half times what I was downloading.
These are the basic steps. You can find more information on anything you like doing Google searches. Wikipedia has a lot of information as well.
My point in all this, really, isn’t to turn everyone into a pirate and topple the media industry. I simply want to point out that if we are not careful our choices for how we interact with our media will become more and more restricted. This is, in my opinion, contrary to the principles of art. Every artist wants to share, every artist wants everyone to have great accessibility to their art, and the best way to provide in this digital world is through the Internet.
I also ask that if you begin to pirate media, don’t forget the people behind the art. Support them directly if you can. Find their official website and e-mail them, or Facebook or Twitter them. Go out and find them, and find out how you can put money in their hands directly. Bypass the current system and make up a new one that benefits us all.
This is by far, not the most exhaustive or informative guide to torrents. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly and I will help you as best I can.
I am not worried about the possible legal backlash from encouraging others to share information freely, I take full responsibility for my actions and my words. I will never hold anyone but myself accountable. If ever I am arrested, sued, deported, or even executed for my beliefs in the pursuit of liberty so be it. We must all take responsibility for our actions and when enough of us decide to share information directly with each other in this manner, no amount of legislation or corporate power will ever stop us.
J.W. Wargo is a Nomadic Bizarro Storyteller originally from Boise, Idaho. His travels have taken him from Budapest to Honolulu and all points in between. He has a Bizarro fiction novella out called Avoiding Mortimer.