March 22, 2008

"Captain Kangaroo" on File Sharing

Greetings. Allow me to channel the late Bob Keeshan for a few minutes. How might Captain Kangaroo have explained the "file sharing" controversy?

Setting aside the technical details and application specifics, what P2P really is of course is ... sharing. Sharing is good. Though if you share something that you do not have the right to share, you risk a visit by the RIAA, MPAA, and similar parties, along with their handcuff-toting cohorts.

But sharing materials to which you have the right to share is legal, period. And remember, sharing is good. There is no requirement in logic or law that the originator of material to be shared must personally distribute it everywhere, or bear the cost of distributing that material to the world. Once a shared item is in the possession of others, they are usually free to independently decide with whom they'd like to further share it. It's theirs to share now. And sharing remains good.

There are many ways to share. Before "formal" P2P ever existed, computer-based sharing took place via BBS systems, UUCP, and even e-mail list server responders. FTP and HTTP are other ways to share, but of course most ISPs at least in theory forbid the running of servers by most consumers, and sometimes enforce this by blocking. They don't want you to share. Even when there's lots of bandwidth, even when you pay for a big upstream pipe, they really would prefer that you stick with the conventional "broadcast" model. They don't seem to like sharing, do they?

But people still want to share. They want to share ideas, they want to share files, they want to share resources, they want to share CPU cycles. Who knows, someday there may be search engines that operate as vast shared applications rather than concentrated at massive data centers! "Google" running on the Treasure House PC! Wouldn't that be fun?

An earlier poster implied that a possible response to encrypted sharing might be banning encryption except for really, truly important things, like dealing with ... money. The Captain doesn't think that idea is going to fly farther than a water-filled ping pon... uh, the little white balls that get paddled back and forth across a Net.

There will always be technologies that disrupt existing methodologies and upset ongoing business plans. We can argue specifics of protocols and topologies, and try to tune our applications to be as efficient and yes, technologically "polite" as possible.

But if there's one lesson that history teaches us on this score, it's that trying to suppress the march of such technologies is as futile as trying to stop the Earth from turning by blowing really, really hard.

And now, it's time for Tom Terrific. Today's episode: "Crabby Appleton Starts an ISP!"

(Apologies to readers who don't know Captain Kangaroo from a koala bear ...)

Posted by Lauren at March 22, 2008 09:24 PM | Permalink
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