In the struggle between progress and law, the law always loses.
This is because the advantages of progress are always compelling to someone, somewhere.
Over 200 years ago England passed laws to keep the science of steam-powered cloth production from leaking out. An Englishman named Samuel Slater (right) defied those laws, moving to America and building a mill based on plans he brought in his head. The mill still stands, just a mile from where my mother grew up in Rhode Island. Americans continued to defy international copyright for another century, because it was in their interests to do so.
America is now where England was then. American laws like the DMCA are, in the end, protectionist legislation written on behalf of our copyright industries. They’re our chief export today, as cloth was for England at the time of Slater.
That’s the theme. The tune is carried by BitTorrent.
BitTorrent is open source software for Windows and a primary method for distributing Linux. It lets users break the "TV Barrier" and use the Internet for moving large video files about.
Because of this, DeWayne Hendricks of Warpspeed writes, cable operators are trying to throttle BitTorrent, using "traffic shaping" techniques to keep users from getting any bandwidth.
It won’t work. Two popular clients, Azureus and µTorrent, are now adding encryption to hide use of the protocol, and keep the contents hidden as well. . The result will be that ISPs, and the U.S. government, will not only fail to stop copyrighted works from passing as Torrents, they won’t even know when their people are using the software.
At the same time BitTorrent and Cachelogic will launch a trial in April, which will try to make the protocol the heart of a legitimate content market. What I found most interesting about the release is where this trial will take place. Kent, in England.
Because British ISPs like NTL have embraced progress, users there are getting up to 8 Mbps, and in Kent 100 Mbps links are being tried, links BitTorrent and Cachelogic are taking advantage of in building a market.
American ISPs, both Bell and cable, continue to hoard bandwidth, fearing the leak of content, while over in merry old England the future is embraced and their market benefits.
Call it Samuel Slater’s revenge.