Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Could It Be Comcast?

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the major labels' desire to employ internet service providers as their own private police force. For its part, Comcast no longer denies its throttling of internet traffic of suspected file sharers, and has come out to say that it has a duty to help cut off the flow of file sharing (though its justification is that file-sharing hogs the pipes and reduces transfer speeds for other customers).

This was in the back of my mind when I went to PirateBay to look for Windows Media Center (I promise, I only wanted to test it to see if it was any better than Nero, which I already have, for use in a home theater PC - damn, I'm a hypocrite). However, I noticed that it took a painfully long time for the main page to load. Once I refreshed, it came up pretty quickly. I then executed a search, and it hung again for about a minute. After a refresh, it seemed to load fine. These and several other problems got me to thinking - was Comcast trying to block all traffic with the domain, thepiratebay.org? Whatever was going on, it was enough to make me give up and go to bed. I'm sticking with Nero.

I've certainly made no secret of my disdain for companies who profit by giving away the creative works of others and while my sympathies are stronger with the music industry, I feel some for the software community as well (though programmers can always get a day job working their craft, while an artist's day job generally involves uttering the words, "Smoking or non-smoking?"). However, I totally disagree with any enforcement action against average citizens, which is precisely what Comcast is doing.

It would truly be freakish if an ISP could act as an all-seeing, all-knowing gatekeeper, preventing average joes from walking into that burlesque house of trading. We've been willing to lose some anonymity by taking our lives online but I'm not so sure that anyone is ready to be told where they can and cannot go, especially by a private corporation.

For some reason, it would "feel" better if lawmakers were to devise a way to make the torrent trackers go away through some legislative remedy - if officials shut a file sharer down, a lot of people would be upset, but eventually they'd get over it and either abandon the practice or hit the new spot. However, to be denied access to something just because an ISP says you can't go there leaves one feeling a bit screwed.