Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

Summary: Is the RIAA unjust in asking PCMag to remove an article that encourages file-sharing? Do you use P2P applications for anything other than finding illegally distributed content? Weigh in your opinions here!


Update: If you're seeing this post for the first time, I'd like to make it clear that my usage of "P2P" throughout this article is merely in reference to the popularized P2P applications with networks primarily sharing illegal/copyrighted content; not P2P protocols themselves as I completely understand the benefits of P2P as a technology. With that said, back to the original post!

Taking a small break from the regular SEO (Search Engine Optimization) format, I'd like to take a moment to stand on my soapbox and respond to an article just posted titled "RIAA Misfires, Grazes"

To give a quick summary on the issue, PCMag recently wrote an article that discussed alternatives to Limewire (a peer-to-peer (P2P) application/service which allows people to share files) after it was shut down. Well, the RIAA didn't take too well to that article and sent PCMag a letter that scolded them for writing the article and requested that it be removed. PCMag is calling foul and skewing on the angle that the music industry is now blaming piracy on them since they have exhausted their typical avenues of blame.

To begin my response, I'd like to quote their current article which makes reference to their original "P2P alternatives" article:


Our article includes this line: "PCMag does not condone the download of copyrighted or illegal material" which the execs contend "rings hallow." In reality, PCMag did not have to include that line. We did it as a courtesy and to make sure that readers do not assume the article constituted some sort of piracy approval. The music industry execs insist the article is encouraging people to steal music.


And now, to put that caveat of theirs in context, here is their wording from the "P2P alternatives" article:


All of these services should be used for legal downloads, of course; PCMag does not condone the download of copyrighted or illegal material. With that in mind, here are few sites that might help with the LimeWire withdrawal.


My take on the whole thing? It's intellectually dishonest for the folks at PCMag to stand back with their hands up and say, "whoa, whoa... we didn't do anything other than talk about technology!" That line they provided as a "courtesy" was put there out of political correctness; not because they actually cared if they encouraged piracy or not. They set out to write an article with the sole purpose of informing people of methods to share files in the absence of Limewire, but here's the thing: The ratio of people who use P2P applications to download illegal content to those who don't is severely lop-sided... and can you guess which side outweighs the other? It's not too terribly difficult to figure out.

Can PCMag say *within reason* that there is even so much as a *single* person who uses the P2P applications they mentioned to share or download *anything* outside of illegal content? No. They can't. And why can't they? Because the only *real* reason people predominantly use P2P apps these days is to download illegal content. That's it. No, I don't have any statistics to post in this article at the moment to prove my point, but I defy anyone reading this to prove otherwise with hard data. And I realize this is a bold claim to make now that I've seen some feedback about developers using P2P technology to share open source applications, companies sharing Linux distributions, companies like Blizzard sharing game patches, et al, but bear with me as I seriously doubt those are the individuals/entities PCMag was addressing in their articles.

Think about it: Are you going to download a P2P application to share something with someone these days? Probably not. When did you ever use Limewire for anything other than to search for music or the odd application or two? If you have a presentation you want to share, are you going to download "Frostwire" or are you going to pop it on your Web site, share it via email, or share it via a service like Likewise, are you going to download "Shareaza" to share that video you made of yourself making your cat sneeze or are you going to upload it to YouTube, Vimeo, or some other similar service? And music. What about music, you say? Ask *any* musician (I happen to be one -- albeit a hobbyist, but I *know* how musicians share their music these days) when the last time was that they used a P2P app to share their music and you will probably get laughed at. They will most likely say MySpace, SoundCloud, SoundClick, Bandcamp, BandMix, MediaFire, et al. Good luck hearing any of them say uTorrent, Vuze, Shareaza, Ares, et al.

Sorry, PCMag. You can hide behind the guise of that caveat all day long and take advantage of the thoughtless masses whose blinding hatred for the RIAA will have them auto-agreeing with whatever you say about them, but I disagree with the perspective you're trying to put on this whole thing. And though I loathe some of the RIAA's actions just as much as the next person, I also happen to be a realist. Honestly, what purpose did your article serve if not to show people where they can find that song, album, application, or blu-ray rip they've been looking for in the absence of Limewire? What did you *think* people were going to search for or share? You mean to tell me that all the people at PCMag who contributed their opinions on the "best" P2P apps all use them to share/download nothing but clean, legal files? Come on, man... seriously?


Oh, and I particularly loved the part in your original article where it said, "here are [a] few sites that might help with the LimeWire withdrawal." Uhhh... "LimeWire withdrawal???" That's like saying, "influenza withdrawal" -- i.e. there is no such thing. What else do you HONESTLY believe someone is going to utilize P2P technology for? To share their own content or to find some obscure application that a simple Web search won't provide? Please don't insult your readers or the RIAA, PCMag.

Put simply, downloading a P2P application with the intention to share personal content, search for others' personally-created/non-illegal content, or to research just about anything is both a hassle and extremely unrealistic circa 2010 nearing 2011. Web 2.0 has been here for quite a while now and its Web applications cup overfloweth. If you want to cover technology and ways to share files in a facile and beneficial way, P2P just isn't where it's at -- nor has it been there for quite some time now... unless you're talking about ways to download/share illegal content and/or viruses, that is, since that's the type of content that overwhelmingly populates P2P networks these days (and always has, really). And again, I highly doubt PCMag was addressing software companies who utilize P2P (thanks for the perspective, Dana) for sharing open source endeavors, patches, etc. -- especially given the fact they're, you know... software companies -- but I could be wrong about that. :)

Here again, I'm not running around with my pro-RIAA picket sign, because I'm not exactly a big fan of theirs, either; but it's time to cut the crap and acknowledge that no one (and I mean NO ONE) uses P2P for ANYTHING these days outside of searching for content they would otherwise have to pay for to obtain. That's it. To act non-committal to that fact and say that you're simply creating awareness and covering technology for technology's sake is intellectually dishonest. Heck, I think even my grandmother knows more constructive ways to find/share files than utilizing P2P applications these days!

What do you think? Does anyone out there honestly utilize P2P applications for anything other than to find and download "hard-to-find"/"hard-to-purchase" music, movies, and applications? I would love to garner some real feedback on this issue. Thanks for your time and happy holiday to those of you celebrating!

Disclaimer: Though there is a long Ziff Davis history here (ZDNet and PCMag were once part of the same family), ZDNet is its own entity and no longer a part of Ziff Davis, Inc. -- thus, not related to PCMag.

Topic: Legal

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  • Well-stated, with one caveat

    I really enjoyed this article, and I agree with you. However, I do think there's *one* area in which P2P still serves a legitimate purpose: Linux ISO distribution. I've seen a lot of distros taking advantage of BitTorrent to do the distribution. Now, that in no way makes up for the 99.99% of content that's on their illegally, but it's the one application I've found that does have some merit. (Having said that, I'm not sure what the benefit of using P2P for this would be. I haven't noticed that this gets people faster downloads.)
    • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

      @bhartman36 Thanks for your comment! I'm assuming you're the individual I agreed with over on PCMag's site? And you're absolutely right. As you were posting your comment, I slightly modified my article to include exactly what you address once a colleague of mine made the suggestion right after I posted the article:

      <em>"And to note, I highly doubt PCMag was addressing software companies who utilize P2P (thanks for the perspective, Dana) for sharing open source endeavors ? especially given the fact they?re, you know? software companies ? but I could be wrong about that."</em>

      So, you definitely called that one, my friend! Naturally, I agree with everything you commented. Thanks again for taking the time to offer your perspective. :) It should be interesting to see how/if this conversation picks up from here...

      • Mutual admiration society? (nt)


      • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

        @StephenChapman I think you've underestimated this - but a HUGE factor. I'm a developer, so I have my own view on software piracy (I don't like, I don't encourage it, I don't do it). However P2P is the only effective way for many open source projects to distribute their efforts without some form of large external funding.
      • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

        @jeremychappell Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment!

        I'm definitely aware of missing that point initially and amended the article as such. Even still, you being a software developer, did you ever need a PCMag article that informed you about P2P alternatives when Limewire was shut down? I mean, you could almost type "P2P" in Google and end up with the apps they listed!

        I definitely missed the factor you mentioned in my tirade, but so did PCMag had that been a legitimate reason they listed for writing their initial article and the article lambasting the RIAA!

  • No, she is not

    Maybe this whole p2p issue has been flogged to death, and maybe it is time to discuss some reasonable alternatives. Trying to make criminals out of a large percentage of the population has not worked in the past and is unlikely to work this time around, besides, it is counterproductive and detrimental to society at large.

    It is time to discuss how to make entertainment/culture/knowledge more readily available and shareable and how we can still fairly compensate the creators.

    The greedy middlemen who no longer serve a useful purpose should be put out to pasture.
    • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

      @Economister Thanks for the feedback! I agree with needing to discuss P2P alternatives, but I disagree with what you said about making criminals out of a large percentage of the population. I'm not trying to make criminals out of anyone (though I know the RIAA and major corporations are), but as I noted in the article, I'd like to see some hard data that shows P2P is mostly utilized for anything other than sharing what is ultimately illegal/copyrighted content.

      I will be happy to shift my perspective on P2P should some solid data surface, but until that time, I absolutely cannot be convinced that the majority of P2P application adopters aren't utilizing the technology/networks for *something* they technically shouldn't be using it for.

      • Maybe I did not make myself clear

        @StephenChapman<br><br>Maybe the "proper" use of p2p should not be the issue. It is an important technology that benefits society. It allows extremely cheap and efficient distribution of all kinds of digital material that benefits society. We need to take advantage of that. It will make most of us better off. It is the final chapter of the revolution Gutenberg started 500 years ago.<br><br>The only problem/issue is how to compensate the creators of the digital material and for how long. With deep packet inspection technology one would think that it would be possible to get some fairly accurate data on the number of copies downloaded/shared of each work. The only remaining challenges are then how to raise/collect the funds and how to distribute them. While not wishing to trivialize the magnitude of that challenge, we are already dividing up the GDP somehow. The current gatekeeper fat cats who do not contribute much any longer will scream bloody murder, but that is the nature of progress. No-one is entitled to make money out of anything forever, especially if their services are no longer useful in our society.<br><br>I therefore think that the discussion needs to move forward to progressive problem solving instead if trying to cling to an inefficient and archaic system of rights.
      • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

        @Economister I'm all for that, but P2P technology can be created and utilized in a manner that restricts undesired content from being shared on the network. If you want to download Blizzard's latest game patch, use their P2P app. If you want to download the latest Ubuntu distro, utilized a custom P2P application for that, too.

        I am also for restructuring the current system of rights. Completely. But my point remains that I *seriously* doubt PCMag had *any* of this in mind when they wrote their articles. Do you? Oh, sure; it's great to list all these alternatives, but they could have specified exactly what they intended people to use them for instead of "oh, we think you need to download legal files only... whatever those may be!"

        Anyway, I'm just not convinced that their intentions were as squeaky-clean as they tried to make it seem... or that they were simply covering technology for the benefit of technology.

    • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)


      You can't ignore the elephant in the room by just saying he's illegal. Yes, the vast majority of people using P2P are downloading movies, tv and audio that presumably were illegally recorded. This is a significant number of people who you can label as criminal. However, the media is available and beyond vague threats and random prosecutions, it's about time the original creators and distributors came up with something to address it.

      Forget software and hardware solutions for preventing copying. If we need to see it or hear it, it can be copied at varying levels of resolution. Even allowing for an honor system where people donate some small amount for downloading something off P2P would generate more revenue that that wasted on trying to prevent it.

      While there are obvious reasons not to download the stuff (e.g. stealing, crime etc) there are some other things to consider.

      One is access. Outside and inside the US or any other country that produces media, the distribution of media is at the whim of the commercial free to air and cable/satellite providers. If they don't think something will produce revenue or they can't afford it then you just won't have access to that media - ever.

      The next is time shifted ownership. I use free to air broadcasts and cable. Virtually every show I'm interested in will turn up on one or the other eventually. I've paid for the right to watch these programs/movies. If I download an episode early, am I just timeshifting? Yes, I'm avoiding the ads, but than I avoid them anyway on broadcast and cable through direct recording and fast forwarding.

      So "Ooooh PCMag was naughty!" blogs might pull in a few posts but it's no solution to arrest half the world or pretend there's some magic DRM that will save us all. If you broadcast something, it will be on the internet in a few hours. That's the reality we have to deal with. How about a surcharge for P2P use paid by ISPs into a world-wide fund or any other ideas?
      • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)


        Accessibility is indeed the problem. In many countries outside the US, it is simply not possible to buy certain content. You're completely at the whim of the local cable operator as to what and when they air. Yes, there is iTunes (and similar stores), but in most countries, you cannot buy music and/or tv content off it.

        They should stop suing people, and try a lot harder to make content available globally, for a reasonable price ($1-2 per tv episode, maybe $3 if it's a high quality/expensive production). I am willing to pay for the content I like - but they do not want to take my money ;)

        P2P would be an excellent technology for content distribution, as it balances the load and reduces investments in server hardware. Savings that could be passed on to the consumer, actually.
  • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

    World of Warcraft (and Blizzard in general) uses P2P tech for patch distribution.

    Just sayin.
    • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

      @samalie Thanks for the comment.

      I fully acknowledge that and likewise fully expect to receive many more replies stating as such. Even with that being the case, my noted points remain the same.

  • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

    By P2P, if your scope is public P2P networks, I may well agree. However P2P protocols are useful for moving massive patches without the distributor having to provide all the infastructure. I have found several examples. Including the Blizzard example above.
    • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

      @heidx Thanks for your input, Heidx. I absolutely see eye-to-eye with you and I've updated my post accordingly to reflect clarity in that I am absolutely referencing public P2P networks (or, more specifically in this post, the most popular P2P applications that exist primarily as an avenue to share any and everything). Thanks again!

  • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

    Long on conjecture and ranting, short on fact. PCMag reported on alternative P2P sites; what those who access those sites download is their concern. By your logic, let's condemn any tech journalist who covers networking--I mean, people can use networks to access other networks for all kinds of hacking, information stealing and other illicit activity, right?
    • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

      @kottie Thanks for the feedback.<br><br>My post was mostly ranting, indeed, but short on fact? I would say short on falsities all the same, then, since I wrote this post with the intention of stirring up debate.<br><br>No, I wasn't condemning PCMag for covering networking. I was condemning them for essentially playing none-the-wiser when they recommended the networks that they did. Where was the demand for alternate P2P networks? Did that post just EXPLODE onto the scene with grateful masses? No.<br><br>Tech journalists can write whatever they would like! But if I write a post about alternative P2P networks when there was no demand and no demographic specified as to who the post would definitely be useful for, then I can't help but expect potential backlash. Especially given the fact that the networks they noted are *notorious* for being used for obtaining illegal/copyrighted content.<br><br>PCMag can cover whatever they want! I'm not against that, but when you get called to the mat for being vague about a post that honestly serves no useful purpose whatsoever beyond helping people obtain everything Limewire provided (hmmm, now I wonder just what the majority of all of that was), don't go playing the victim and acting like the RIAA had absolutely NO reason for carrying out the actions they did.<br><br>-Stephen
  • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

    "The ratio of people who use P2P applications to download illegal content to those who don?t is severely lop-sided? and can you guess which side outweighs the other? It?s not too terribly difficult to figure out."

    With that, you're intelectually blatant, at best. No numbers, no statistics. Just guessing.

    Did you know that a credit card can be used as a ice scrapper on your windshield? It may not be illegal, it's just stupid. Now I wonder how many stupid credit card users there are in snow covered areas and whether the number of stupid users outweight those who use their cards properly and pile up debts.
    • RE: Is My Grandmother Smarter Than PCMag? (My Response to PCMag's RIAA P2P Debacle)

      @kitko Perhaps it just seems obvious to me. It is absolutely guessing and I would really love for someone to come along and blast me with recent statistics that show what people utilize P2P networks like the alternatives mentioned by PCMag for. Between the many people I know online and the individuals I know in-person (be them friends, colleagues, or family), my opinion of public P2P networks like those mentioned by PCMag is heavily skewed. The reason? I don't know a single person who uses P2P for anything other than downloading illegal content. And it's not like I only know 10 people or something; I'm talking at least 100 (which is quite a lot, but I wouldn't be surprised if that number should actually be much greater due to people I have known in certain online communities for years, etc.).<br><br>So, while my personal experience with P2P is quite skewed, it seems unfathomable to me that anyone 30 and under these days doesn't know *someone* who either uses or used P2P networks to get their fill of finding whatever they wanted. Sure, my claim is bold and holds absolutely no merit statistically/factually/et al, but if my perception of public P2P networks is just flat-out wrong, I would love to be shown as such. I have no problems admitting if/when I'm wrong, so... I both agree with your point and disagree with it to an extent. :) <br><br>-Stephen
  • Sorry, but...

    Quote: "Can PCMag say *within reason* that there is even so much as a *single* person who uses P2P applications to share or download *anything* outside of illegal content? No. They cant."<br><br>Yes, they can. I used BitTorrent for years as a beta tester of SUSE Linux. I'd download and share the alpha and beta builds, and the final releases.<br><br>You are welcome to inspect my hard drive to look for illegal torrented content.

    Edit: And what about Warner Brothers? They experimented with releasing shows over BT, okay, it didn't last long. ;-)

    I'm not saying people don't use P2P for downloading illegal material, I just wanted to point out, that you supposition is flawed. There are people who do only use it for legal content.