From the days of Napster to Peter Sunde most recently facing millions in damages and an actual prison sentence for his illegal music and video sharing on The Pirate Bay, torrent files are prompting the government to intervene. And with the release of Michael Jackson's posthumous album "Michael" being leaked via file-sharing sites this week, Big Brother may enact more forceful censorship laws.
Due out next week, the much anticipated Michael Jackson album has already been leaked on the Internet. Based on a TMZ post, it was reported that all 10 of the disc's tracks are being distributed by file-sharing sites. And "unless Sony Music authorized it -- this is a clear case of illegal piracy," notes the report. However according to Mashable, Sony declined to comment.
Three cuts from the album have already circulated the Web, including "Much Too Soon" on the social network Ping last week and "Hold My Hand" debuted in late November on Jackson's official Web site. "Breaking News" which many suspect was sung by an impersonator was found on the Internet as early as November 8.
Mashable reported that album and movie leaks are very common on the Web. Most recently, Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" leaked before it was officially released for sale and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 1 was also available before the movie debuted.
So how is the government reacting to these "blurred lines" of file-sharing. In late November, the US government seized and shuttered Torrent-Finder.com due to intellectual property concerns including copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit goods. According to the founders of the site, they told bloggers that the seizure was conducted "without any previous complaint or notice from any court."
The Web watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that more serious measures are in the government's pipeline. The "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA) is an Internet censorship bill which is rapidly moving through the Senate. Although "it is ostensibly focused on copyright infringement, an enormous amount of non-infringing content, including political and other speech, could disappear off the Web if this bill passes," the report states.
While music and video are intellectual property owned by private entities, many of these file-sharing sites have been used for legitimate purposes. For instance, if anyone is familiar with Dropbox, this site is an excellent tool for sending large files that are too sizable to be send by emails. I, personally sent a file of a document that came in at 200 megs. Dropbox was ideal for building a Web link and sending the link to the recipient of the file. The entire process took less than 5 minutes and avoided sending a DVD by snail mail.
However, if this bill passes, the list of targeted sites could include Dropbox, in addition to MediaFire, Rapidshare and others. According to EFF, "indeed, had this bill been passed five or ten years ago, YouTube might not exist today - in other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous."
So, readers, what do you think about file-sharing? Should sites like Torrent-Finder and others continue to exist and is censoring them, just the first step for other legitimate files-sharing sites to be removed from the public's access as well?