No such thing as a free torrent

Image: PC World

6 July 2018

Last week I wrote about how Irish consumers were turning their backs on subscription-based services and returning to illegal file sharing websites. The story was particularly bad news for content creators whose online fortunes had shifted from receiving nothing at all from their work through foul means to a pittance from legal ones.

Matters did not improve for creatives on Thursday when the EU voted down proposed rules on overhauling copyright for the digital economy. Two measures in particular proved decisive: the use of ‘upload filters’ to spot unlicensed content and the treatment of news snippets as displayed in Google search results as intellectual property.

The proposals were defeated 278 to 31 meaning legislators have to come up with a new set of proposals in time for a vote in September.

Reaction has been predictable. The tech space has heralded the vote as a victory for innovation, creativity and expression. In contrast the entertainment industry has expressed disappointment at how once again the likes of YouTube and Facebook can make money off their work in a context that is both free and legal – the worst of all possible worlds.

Reacting to the vote, singer-songwriter and IMRO chair Eleanor McEvoy, called the result “a sad day for Irish music” and blamed “a sustained campaign of mis-information,” from the tech sector.

If my revenue model could be defended by spreading fear of having to pay for something, I guess it would be pretty effective, too.

Victor Finn, chief executive of IMRO, admitted the vote was “a set-back in relation to the recognition of music” but noted that while these measure will not progress, there is still time to come up with an alternative.

A bad week for content producers but there is a sting in the tail: those users willing to go back to illegal file sharing may get a suprise in the form of overheating and increased CPU load. A report on security vendor Sophos’ Naked Security blog reported that The Pirate Bay has been mining the cryptocurrency Monero through its users’ Web browsers.

This isn’t the first time TPB has tried to make coin off the back of Game of Thrones/Westworld/Taylor Swift downloads. Last month a user posted to an official forum that his CPU was running hot. Having identified the problem, though, reaction varied from ‘how dare they do this without notice’ to ‘I’m cool with chipping in’ to ‘if you’re not using ad and script blocking and staying on for more than five minutes, you’re not doing it right’.

A follow-up by Sophos found no evidence of mining at work but a disclaimer has since appeared at the bottom of the TPB website warning users that using the website is implied consent to have your CPU used for cryptomining and that if you’re not into it you should leave or install an adblocker. I guess it’s nice of TPB to coach users on how to avoid contributing to their virtual tip jar. Pirates gonna pirate.

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