February 23rd, 2014 by pirateadmin
Sunday is my big movie browsing day, wether it is buying or finding stuff to download. The rest of the week I burn, organize, shelf and sort my movies. And watch them, of course. And yes, I do buy movies. I do not account for all of them here, but today I bought some stuff from Amazon UK. And I started thinking….
What I bought was 5 DVDs. They were all unknown, somewhat “trashy” movies, except one. Together they cost 2.5 pounds, around 25 nkr or 4 dollars. They were cheap because they were used; those 4 unknown movies each cost 0.01 pounds, that’s free for all practical purposes. Five movies for 25 nkr, or about 5 nkr per DVD, that’s less than half the price of one chocolate bar. A great deal!
But then I checked out from Amazon. Postage: 9 pounds. OK, so I knew that postage from the UK to Norway would be expensive, and I don’t blame neither Amazon nor the sellers. After all, it’s the mail company that sets the prices, and I guess Royal Mail or whatever government entity that dictates postage rates do not care about cheap items becoming relatively expensive for mail order customers. I paid for the purchase, and was rather satisfied – I wanted those movies, had not been able to find them online as good DVD quality downloads, and even at a cost of 25 nkr per disc it was a decent deal.
However, what I started to think about, was that why don’t I do this more often. I can get 0.01 pounds movies or 1 pound movies from Amazon all the time. Disregarding that many titles do not have subtitles, which I prefer, those 9 pounds make great bargains less great. I’d rather pay 1 pound or dollar to the Red Cross than to Amazon or Royal Mail. And, more importantly as a point to make in terms of pirate principles, no movie studio, producer or actor is making anything from used DVDs that cost 0.01 pounds. Extremely low prices are just a way for a distributor or retailer to get rid of merchandise that don’t sell. Only Amazon and the mail carrier benefit, even though they don’t benefit much. Perhaps nothing in this case, labour and materials taken into account.
And “nothing earned” is also the case when I download data from the net; movies, music, software, books, fonts, etc. Just like any used sale. If I buy DVDs from a flea market or a junkshop or from a friend, no creator or industry participant make any money. Just like when I download. If illegal downloads are to be stopped, so must dirt cheap bargain sales too!
You can then argue that my friend who bought that DVD in the first place, contributed something to the industry, so a small income was made once in the chain of that specific DVD. Well, in my case, and I think many pirates do the same, we buy stuff and when our money runs out, we download more. We cannot buy a DVD or CD when our pocket money has run out. And just like lack of pocket money is not a threat to the entertainment industry, lack of payment for downloads is not a threat. Not in the big scheme of things, and not in the long run anyway.
I once wrote that I would no longer support Amazon because they shut down Lovefilm in Scandinavia. So now I buy 0.01 pounds movies from them, and the real money I pay goes to the mail carrier.
February 16th, 2014 by pirateadmin
Prepare yourself for numbers and words! What you often hear about are two terms, “illegal downloading” and “file sharing”. The two sometimes mean the same, sometimes not. The most popular way of getting unauthorized digital content is via the latter, file sharing. Now, sharing is a keyword because if you use torrent networks to download, you also upload at the same time. It’s sharing what you have, not just downloading. You share what you have, in the sense that other people download to themselves what you already have on your harddrive. This aspect is very important in the file sharing game, because it means solidarity and that everyone needs to help out for the sharing to work. Typically, illegal content is only kept alive if at least one person – preferably hundreds – share the same book, movie, album or photo collection. A cluster of people sharing the same movie means that some of them can be offline during the night, and some of them can have slow lines, but they all contribute so that other people over time (either very fast, from 15 to 90 minutes for big torrents, or over several weeks) get what they want. The longest time I spend downloading something, was a box set of Bruce Lee DVDs that took me 8 weeks to complete. Sometimes you do need patience, even in this instant-gratification-internet-world.
Anyway, let me tell you about some numbers that explains what I am talking about. Right now I am sharing 127 different movies, music albums and softwares. In torrent circles we talk about sharing ratio, or just ratio. If you have downloaded a movie that is 500 mb in size, and you have uploaded 500 megabytes to others, then your ratio is 1. If you have uploaded 1000 mb of that movie (i.e. 1 gigabyte), then your ratio is 2. And so on. It is always important to have a good ratio, and the minimum should be 1 before you delete the torrent from your client/sharing software. Otherwise, if everyone uploads less than what they download, rather quickly the movie will never be available completely to those downloading from you and the cluster you are part of. Many private trackers have rules about ratios, saying that if you delete the torrent from your client (i.e. stop sharing) before your ratio is 1, you will get punished. Many trackers also have an overall ratio rule, meaning that your combined sharing must have a ratio of at least 0.5 or 1 to not loose your account. Such rules are in place to prevent hit & runs, where people grab an entire 4.5 GB movie and don’t share back more than for example 50 megabytes.
There are two more terms that you see in the torrent worlds often; leechers (downloaders) and seeders (uploaders). Leechers are those who download the content of a torrentfile, and seeders are those who have 100% of the content and are sharing to others, as they are finished with downloading. If a certain file that exists as a torrent has very few seeders, for example only two uploaders, and a third person joins the cluster to download it, those two seeders will probably get a good ratio on their torrent, because the third person grabs bits and bytes from only two seeders. If a torrent is popular and has 250 seeders, cluster guy number 251 will have 250 others to download from, so each of those 250 gets to contribute only a little each, not impacting their own ratio so much. The good thing though, is that guy number 251 will get a very good speed, because the torrent client combines incoming data from all the seeders.
Looking at my 127 current seeds, it appears that it is easier/quicker to get a good ratio on smaller files, than bigger files. File size is relative, but music albums, compressed video (AVI files) and softwares are often “small”, while DVD and BluRay movies are bigger. I can only guess, but I think that more people prefer smaller files, as they download faster and don’t take up so much harddrive space. Of the Top 20 Best Ratio torrents right now, for me, only 6 are what I would call big files (or big file collections).
However, ratio is relative and doesn’t say anything about how much I have uploaded (or downloaded) “physically”. Among my current torrents, the torrent that I have shared the most from in terms of data size is a collection of Disney short films, a collection which is 91.2 gigabytes big, and my uploads for that torrent is 89.6 gigabytes. My ratio on that one is 0.981 even though I started seeding on it 7 months ago and have shared a lot. The reason is that this collection is so big that few people grab this torrent. They can also grab individual films from within that torrent, if they are looking for a specific title and don’t want a huge pile of data eating up drive space. Coincidentally, another big torrent right now is also a Disney short films collection. The combined size is 36.8 gigabytes and I have uploaded 82.9 gigabytes, giving me a ratio of 2.253.
We pirates with good ratios get nothing back, not even a “thank you” from other pirates in the same cluster. It’s a silent agreement and a silent collaboration. If you are downloading torrents through a private tracker and have a good ratio, you might get special privileges, such as the possibility to download without that affecting your ratio negatively. The idea is not to earn anything or to get status, just sharing. It feels good to share!
February 7th, 2014 by pirateadmin
We talk a lot about copyrights and intellectual property and what it could mean if laws are changed, added or enforced harder. But it’s not so often that we encounter a case from traditional media where a famous “property” changes its nature. I mean, what would it mean if Star Wars was in the public domain? Now there is such a case – Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective from sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and numerous movies (he’s possibly the most filmed character in history) has entered public domain, at least to a large part.
But first, what is “public domain”? It is a term describing works of art where the copyright has either expired, or the creator has decided to let the work loose without traditional copyright attached to it. Wikipedia says it like this:
Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Examples include the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, The King James Bible, most of the early silent films, the formulae of Newtonian physics, and the patents on powered flight. According to the formal definition, the public domain consists of works that are unavailable for private ownership or are available for public use.
For example, copyright belongs to the author (or its descendants or publisher) of a book for 50 or 70 years after the person’s death, depending on which country the author lived in. This means that a company, organisation or foundation can handle the copyrights of Agatha Christie or Elvis Presley for a few decades more, and they can give licences for TV productions, movies or new records. However, in the case with sir Doyle, he died in 1930 and now it is 84 years since he died. In other words, his works should now be in the public domain.
Holmes and Watson on a train, as depicted in Strand magazine. This illustration is so old that it’s in the public domain too.
There’s some differences between US copyright law and European copyright law, so not everything and anything about the Sherlock Holmes stories are public domain. I’m not going to go into the legal details and differences now, but a judge in Chicago has decided that the characters in the stories are now in the public domain.
And what does that mean? It means that anyone who wants to write new books and stories about the characters no longer need permission or pay license fees to the Doyle foundation. (A few exceptions exist due to extended copyrights in stories written after 1922, but those limitations will expire over the next 8 years too.) So for the first time, we can have brand new Holmes stories written by anyone! You, me, or famous authors.
This principle means that any work of art or litterature can be extended and expanded once copyright expires. A whole new Holmes world opens up! All of it may not be as clever as the originals, but that’s another debate. For some franchises, it is very sad that nothing new is produced to keep interest up, but now authors can write sequels to Sherlock Holmes, or produce movies and TV without being controlled by a few people. Fans can produce new Holmes stories and publish them on the web without being sued by the Doyles. I am not saying they are bad people, I’m just highlighting the principle. The Doyle estate plans to appeal the decision, of course.
It’s of course the same with the music of Bach and Beethoven and Vivaldi. You can record your own symphonies without paying any royalties or licence fees. But even though the compositions are in public domain now, recent recordings are not. If you buy a CD released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2010, the recording (the sound on the disc) is still copyrighted by them, so you cannot exploit it without getting a permission.