/* digital arts, new media, ePoetry, literature, interactive fiction, videogames, comics, critical practice, instruction */

//Cease and Desist -- archived from my journal post of June 3, 2005

*** UPDATE 06.07.05

Thanks again to everyone who supported me in this and who took the time to contact either 1and1 or their own hosting service to inquire about the status of Bit Torrent files on their system. I have received a letter from 1and1 today which stated, "After review, we can see that this may not be a copyrighted document.  However, be mindful of the traffic that the sharing of this file can generate." Well, actually the file IS copyrighted (copywritten?), but it belongs to ME... No matter, the issue is resolved and I'm not getting shut down. Yip!

But I wrote my initial essay because I was concerned about the overall perception of Bit Torrent, and thanks to a lot of people's efforts, I think there has been some good headway made in calling hosting companies into line with sane web policies and technology practices. 1and1 issued a statement today (not to me directly, but which was forwarded to me by Tom at Slyck.com) stating that the initial responses (the Parris replies as I call them) from 1and1 Tech Support were erroneous, and, in fact, they are updating the Q&A section of their site to reflect that legitimate Bit Torrent usage is allowed on 1and1 servers.

Here's their statement:

1&1 Internet Statement on the Use of BitTorrent(c)

In recent days a 1&1 Internet support agent incorrectly informed a
customer that the use of BitTorrent(c) on certain 1&1 systems is not
permitted. The support agent's statement was based on a
misinterpretation of company policy and an incorrect analysis of
available data. When it was determined that the customer was erroneously
advised, the situation was rectified and the customer was notified that
the use of BitTorrent is allowed.

1&1 deeply regrets any confusion this mistake has caused. To better
address customer concerns on this matter in the future, we are in the
process of updating the "Q&A" section of our Website to include detailed
information clarifying the use of BitTorrent with our various hosting

It's a score for distributed lobbying and peer-to-peer. And on the heels of the Dream Host news (in which a customer was told a similar story about how torrents were banned from the web servers, and then the company revised their statement, and might allow legitimate use given reliable tracker software), this is very, very good news. Sharing is fun!

**Greetz to all the BoingBoing and blog audience. This post killed our local journal site (which I won't link to here for obvious reasons). But Paul, the admin of that site, was kind enough to salvage my content and allow me to post a backup version of the essay here.

I can't believe the way people confuse Bit Torrent with movie piracy. Let me set the record straight here: Bit Torrent is a technology for distributing large files without incurring massive server loads. It's being used in all kinds of personal, professional, non-profit, and governmental applications. Videogame companies use Bit Torrent to distro patches and trailers. And if you're an independent video / multimedia creator, Bit Torrent means that it is now possible to share high quality versions of your work with others. That's how I use it.

I have an installation of Blog Torrent on my personal site ( link) that I use to distro needlessly large copies of my movies (made by me and my friends), and I had intended to experiment with Broadcast Machine ( link). I hope to get some of my videomaking colleagues ( link) to experiment with making their work available online. For some reason, though, the Broadcast Machine kept giving me errors and whenever I tried to access the .torrent files it made, I got a 403 Access Forbidden error. I was perplexed, and had pretty much resigned myself to checking in on a later version of Broadcast Machine since it sees pretty regular updates.

Then I received this letter:
Dear Shawn Rider,

It has come to our attention that you are hosting copyrighted and/or licensed
files and software (aka, 'warez')

/bt/btdownloadbg.py ./torrents/booth_babes.mp4.torrent --statusfile data/72eda5dcfb51164fd30cdd88a4d189a8953b96dd.status --display_interval 15 --save_in data/seedfiles/

Please note that the hosting of these files is strictly prohibited by our T&C

You agree not to infringe any copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, or
other proprietary rights of any third party, including, but not limited to, the
unauthorized copying of copyrighted material, the digitization and distribution
of photographs from magazines, books, or other copyrighted sources, and the
unauthorized transmittal of copyrighted software;

Please remove the requested files from your webspace immediately and reply to
this email. Failure to do so will result in your account being locked and
possibly terminated.

Now, I'm all for keeping "warez" (wARR-ezzz, matey!) off the server. In fact, on my Blog Torrent RSS it specifically forbids posting warez to the tracker, and I'd happily remove any pirated movie, music, docs or soft. But this is my movie. I made it in 2001 with my wife, Sarah, and a few of my friends. I state as much very clearly on my website ( link), and anyone who actually took the time to LOOK at my site would have quickly realized that these files are mine and free for me to share (and free for you to download and share, too).

But it's obvious that 1and1, which is a pretty large hosting company, is using some kind of algorithmic filter to block these files. It was "signed" by a tech support person, but the return address was just a generic admin address. I immediately responded to the letter:

Um, I made that movie. It's mine and I am trying to use Broadcast
Machine to host my video files. This is not a copyright infringement
at all. I've been hosting it on GamesFirst! (also my website) since we
made it in 2001. Please cease and desist these silly letters and allow
people to access my legitimate and completely legal personal

Thank you,
Shawn Rider

I don't want them to turn off my websites. And this is not any kind of civil disobedience, which would involve breaking a law. I'm just uploading my files to the Internet and trying out some technologies to facilitate this with the lowest demand on my webserver. If hosting companies apply some kind of blanket filter against .torrent files, that will seriously limit our ability to share media and content. It is completely unacceptable for web servers to do this kind of unmonitored regulation and threatening. What if I had been on vacation, couldn't respond, and they shut down my site in a week?

I see this kind of stuff all the time. On CNN they called EliteTorrents a "part of the Bit Torrent network." You see Bit Torrent referred to as a pirated materials provider all the time. Like in a blurb about Tivo execs retiring, Bit Torrent is blamed and is calld a free "filesharing service" ( link).

Bit Torrent is a technology used to share files. The files that are shared could be of any type, including pirated media, but ALSO they could be family videos, poetry, homebrew videogames, podcasts recorded on portable media players... ANYTHING. Bit Torrent is like the Inernet itself -- which has been aptly compared to a highway. You can't fault the road for the things you find along the way.

The difference between Bit Torrent and actual filesharing "services" or "software" is that those systems keep track of files in some direct way. For example, if I were using Kazaa, then I am using the Kazaa software and will only find others plugged into the Kazaa network. Same with eDonkey, Warez, Limewire, Bearshare, Gnutella... all of these are systems where it is very difficult to configure your own little niche. What I mean is this: If I want to share my own videos on Kazaa, then they're just a hop away from pr0n and piracy.

Bit Torrent is different because it has no kind of centralized server at all; instead, one simply installs a little PHP software that creates a file on the server called a .torrent. The "torrent" file is then downloaded by somebody else using a Bit Torrent client (there are like a billion of them). The file itself, the video, song, whatever, that you have requested, is then sent directly from one machine to the other. If lots of people download, then it all goes much faster. That's the beauty of Bit Torrent -- you're rewarded if lots of people share. It's this kind of thing that makes Bit Torrent a much better way of sharing files.

On my website I share the files that I want to put out there, and if somebody wants to use Bit Torrent to go download some crappy pop song, they have to visit a different website. There is a Bit Torrent tracker for everyone, and it's pretty easy to make one yourself if you can't find one that fits. So go ahead and indict the pirates and thugs -- that's not my battle. But leave the Bit Torrent alone for those of us who just have some perverse desire to give our stuff away.

I want this on a t-shirt:

Bit Torrent doesn't pirate movies, people do.