Paidcontent:UK is reporting that a major UK ISP is planning to monitor it’s customers illegal music downloads and reimburse record companies. The article suggests Virgin Media will be using ‘deep packet inspection’ technology from Playlouder to monitor what songs are downloaded, and customers who pay an additional fee will be allowed to download as much as they want from P2P sources.
The story raises a lot more questions than it answers, but that may be the point. I will certainly be interested to hear how this will work, as it would be an interesting alternative to criminalisation of a large slice of the UK’s internet users.
This one’s getting more convoluted than any soap opera. News broke recently that Virgin Media has done a deal with the BPI and will send warning letter to any of its customers that the BPI accuse of illegal file sharing. It appears that Virgin Media are now trying to backtrack on this, and have told the BBC that there is ‘absolutely no possibility’ of banning internet users or taking legal action. This is despite 800 users receiving letters from Virgin Media in the past month that are in envelopes labelled ‘Important. If you don’t read this, your broadband could be disconnected’. So no chance of sending conflicting messages. Read more…
Looks like that pillar of integrity and customer care, Virgin Media, is determined to screw its cusomers for everything it can. I’ve previously written about Virgin Media’s plans to send warning letters to its customers whom the BPI accuse of illegal file sharing. It now looks like Virgin Media have agreed to the BPI’s plans with some hints that there’s more at stake than complying with the law. Arstechnica have the full story, suggesting co-operative ISP’s can become ‘significant distributors of digital media’ . Which basically means can make lots of money.
Bill Thompson at the BBC has an interesting comment on this, agreeing with many other analysts that clinging to old business models and prosecuting anyone who doesn’t play ball will eventually fail. Bittorrent rose from the ashes of other content sharing systems that were thwarted, so when Bittorrent becomes demonised and unusable something else will take its place. And the next system will be anonymous, encrypted and untracable.
In associated news, Arstechnica has the news that young P2P users are willing to pay for music, if it’s on their terms. Which means unlimited legal downloads for a set monthly fee. This idea has been around for a while and while it seems to be gaining popularity, is no closer to realisation. My thought is that it’s far too radical for an industry desperately clinging to its outdated business models. It would be nice to be proved wrong though.
The EU have invested $22 million in the development of an open-source bitTorrent client. The BBC are one of the largest groups involved in the effort, planning to use the new client to stream TV programs. According to the article on Torrent Freak more than half of all bittorrent users are downloading TV episodes and the broadcast companies are waking up to the this.
There’s just one problem with this. A large amount of ISP’s are currently limiting the bandwidth available for bittorrent on their network. Virgin media have had a download cap in place for a while, and also appear to be limiting bittorrent in other ways. If I use bittorrent all the other internet traffic slows down, even if the torrent is only using 500Kb/s out of my theoretical 2,500Kb/s maximum download speed. So much for unlimited internet.
At a time when software like Tribler is appearing to make it easier to find and download bittorrent content, we may end up not being able to use it at all. Just remember that bittorrent users are selfish and inconsiderate (I know that’s crazy, but it’s Virgin Media’s view). Bear in mind that this is an unlimited service they’re talking about.
The problem here is that bittorrent is become a standard for sharing content. If ISP’s don’t get on board and give their customers what they want they risk losing out. ISP’s who plan ahead and invest in equipment that can handle the demand will take the customers. Instead of demonising the ‘greedy users’, why not stop spouting marketing crap and give us what we pay for?
Transmission, my favourite Mac Bittorrent client, has reached version 1.0 today. It’s available for a range of unix-ey operating systems including Linux, BSD’s and Solaris. Downloads are here.
Also mentioned on the site is Clutch, a web UI for transmission that allows you to remotely control your torrents via the web. I haven’t tried this before, but it sound like just the thing for managing my Linux distribution downloads from work.