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

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.