Happy 15th Anniversary, Download.com

download.com

download.com

Today we have application stores up the ying-yang. But 15 years ago, trying to find applications for your computer was a lot harder. We did have two decent sources: Tucows.com and download.com (a CNet company, now owned by CBS). Since then, these two sources have grown to better catalog Freeware, shareware, and paid applications. This week, we say Happy anniversary to Download.com.

While the domain was registered on February 24, 1996, Download.com will officially launch on October 23rd, 1996 (Reference via CNet article). Since then, the website sees almost 10 million downloads of software a week. The top downloads being AVG and Avast antivirus software. A long cry from Hey, Macaroni (the dancing macaroni meme), WinZip 32 and Duke Nukem 3D – which was the most downloaded in 1996. WinZip is still one of the top 5 download pieces of software on the site.

For 15 years, download.com has kept a great archive of software, weeding out the obsolete, malware producing items. They have been sued for some software downloads, most notably the free music download program LimeWire. While download.com did not promote the download of mp3 music or movies, the peer-to-peer software is another way to download legally shared items. Of course, this has always been the conundrum of file sharing.

In retrospect, TuCows has been in operation since 1994, offering the same services. Other services have come and gone, but download.com has stayed strong. So happy 15 years to a source that I’ve personally used many a time from my IT career.

Illegal Downloaders Do Spend More Money on Music

The London-based think tank Demos has concluded that illegal downloaders spend more money on music. The headline figure, based on the survey of over 1000 people between 16 and 65, is that the average spend per annum on CDs or vinyl was £75 (GBP) for file-sharers compared with only £51 for all surveyed.

The notion that illegal downloaders actually spend more money on music has always had its supporters but it’s good to see that this can now be backed up with some hard data, at least for the UK. However, there’s some much more juicy information, but remember that this is representative sample of the online population, not the whole population and not just music aficionados or games players.

69% of those questioned had used official or legal sources for music such as iTunes or YouTube. Physical media still dominates purchasing with 65% having bought CDs or vinyl against 33% who purchased downloadable music.

A third had used peer-to-peer technology or search engines to find free music but only 9% actually confessed to illegal downloading. Almost everyone knew that sharing purchased music was not “fair use” but 81% of people who had purchased their music thought that “fair use” should include the ability to move the music between different players easily.

47% would be interested in a monthly subscription service with the optimum price point being £5 per month but it would have to be simple and convenient to use.

There is only a slight male bias of 57%:43% in illegal music downloading (which is far less than I would have expected) and 46% gave “because I can” as a reason for doing it. (I think in the old days, this would’ve been known as “troughing”).  Unsurprisingly, two thirds of this group also engaged in the illegal downloading of movies, games and other software.

The full “Digital Music Survey” is available to download from the Demos website and it’s a fascinating read into the state of music consumption.  Recommended.

Note for readers – as far as I’m aware and I’m not a lawyer, the UK does not currently have a “fair use” provision in its copyright legislation.

U.S. Homeland Security Shuts Down BitTorrent P2P Site

U.S. Homeland Security Shuts Down BitTorrent P2P Site
Ten people suspected of involvement with the EliteTorrents webserver were served warrants by homeland security agents. According to the U.S. government agency, this is the first criminal enforcement action taken against violators of copyright law who use the BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P2P) file swapping software. The operation, codenamed D-elite, targeted administrators and content providers working through the EliteTorrents website.

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Pew Report States That 27 Percent of Users Download Digital Music and Video

The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported this week that 36 million Americans, 27 percent of internet users, report having downloaded music or video files. Half of this group have skirted the traditional peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and commercial online distribution services (i.e. Napster, iTunes). This is a significant number of digital media users whose sharing of digital media is untraceable by the recording industry and copyright holders.

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UA Student Convicted for Downloading Music & Movies

Parvin Dhaliwal,18, a student at the University of Arizona (UA), is the first person in country to be convicted of a crime under state law for downloading music and movies. Dhaliwal pleaded guilty to possession of counterfeit marks, or unauthorized copies of intellectual property, and was sentenced to a three-month deferred jail sentence, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $5,400 fine. Dhaliwal must also take a copyright class at UA and stop using file-sharing applications. What makes this conviction notable is that copyright protection is normally a federal matter.

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The Pot Calls The Kettle Black: Turning the Tables on Online Music Swapping

Sharman Networks, Ltd., owners of the KaZaA peer-to-peer file-sharing network, have sued entertainment companies for copyright infringement. Yep, that’s right, the company that makes it possible to swap bootleg digital music is suing the music companies.

The crux of Sharman’s argument is that the entertainment companies used unauthorized versions of the KaZaA software, called Kazaa Lite to find the users who were illegally swapping tunes. Kazaa Lite doesn’t include the advertisements that help pay for the authorized version of the product. Lawyers for Sharman also say that the music industries efforts to stamp out music piracy violates the terms of usage for the KaZaA network.

Dave’s Opinion
Some people get what they deserve while others make noise just to hide the truth. The recording entertainment industry says swappers violate copyright law, the file swapping network says the recording industry violates copyright law. What a cat fight!

We should all give up our next concert tickets in favor of a seat in this court room … I think this will be a better show.

Call for Comments
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References
Sharman Networks
Kazaa Lite

Must Everything Be Free on the Internet?

Must everything eventually be available for free on the Internet? Steve Lohr, in an article in today’s New York Times, argued that all public digital data will eventually be free on the Internet, because it’s too difficult to protect the intellectual property (IP) rights of the authors.

Mr. Lohr presents an engaging argument for accepting the inevitable distribution and public acquisition of music, words, art, and other works protected by IP law. In facing this inevitable distribution of this collective corpus, we should rethink the protection we strive to afford creators of original works in a manner that recognizes and accepts the new technological environment in which we find ourselves.

An example of the misuse of Internet-related technology that has brings Mr. Lohr to his opinion is the wanton copying and distribution of digital music through file sharing services (i.e. Napster, KaZaA, Grokster, Morpheus), a violation of copyright law. In response, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) this week filed 261 lawsuits against individual users of file sharing systems, using their attempt to enforce current IP laws as a threat to the millions of other illegal music swappers.

Dave’s Opinion
Although, as Mr Lohr wrote, “[the Internet has] origins in the research culture of academia with its ethos of freely sharing information,” I can’t imagine that the early-adopter, circa 1960, academicians, scientists, and scholars freely shared all of their research and hard-earned scholarly writings. Having the technology to share data doesn’t require one to share the data. Having technical skill doesn’t grant one the right to acquire, let alone redistribute, data. I agree with Mr. Lohr that we must allow our approach to protecting the rights of artists to evolve in the face of technological advances; however, I don’t agree that it’s time to roll over and accept that dissemination of currently-protected works is inevitable and, therefore, shouldn’t be restricted.

Some things are inevitable: the sun will again rise and set,the net will continue to transmit data packets, and yes, copyright-protected music will be shared illegally. However, I judge that just because a task is difficult it is no reason to give up the fight. While I have no hard evidence at hand, my perception is that file swapping is most frequently done by young adults whose civil acumen isn’t matched by their technical skill. I think it’s reasonable that our file swappers are less practiced at critically thinking about the value of their civil responsibilities.

In handing over the reins of legal protection under the guise of accepting the inevitable aren’t we, the citizens who have had more opportunities to consider our responsibilities, failing to accept one of our primary civil responsibilities: raising the next generation to be upright, law-abiding citizens?

Call for Comments
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References
Message Center
Whatever Will Be Will Be Free on the Internet