Is BitTorrent Ethical?

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by hookahco, Oct 17, 2005.

  1. hookahco macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2005
    To Live n Die in L.A. California
    I've been thinking a lot about p2p (mostly BitTorrent) and i caught myself using it the other day. I usually think its cheating but I was in a bad situation.. anyway, I missed "Alias" because my DVR didnt record it right so i downloaded the episode later that night from a bittorrent tracker. Do you think this is a situation in which it would be right to use bittorrent? I deleted the file after viewing it.
  2. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    It's like asking whether using the roads is ethical. Depends on what and how you're driving...

    Downloading copyrighted material is extremely shady. Everybody knows this... there's a lot of rubbish talked about 'fair use' and some dubious stances taken by people who imagine themselves to be Robin Hood characters taking a stance against 'The Man'.

    Personally, I don't use P2P because I just can't be bothered and to me, missing a TV program hardly counts as a 'bad situation'.

    As a designer, I'm well aware of the issues surrounding copyright and intellectual property and if some of those who advocate piracy had their livelihoods depend on something they personally created, perhaps they would take a different view on the matter.
  3. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    The technology - no comment

    The content -- well it depends what content.

    The Betamax case established that a company could not be prohibited from selling a product that had a substantial, non-infringing use, even though it could also be used for infringing purposes.

    The test for non-infringing recording of TV shows was that the show was being broadcast to the owner for FREE -- therefore they could record it and time shift it.

    So if Alias is on the airwaves in your home as 'free' (that is, freely broadcast, advertiser supported) television, then it would be hard to differentiate between a VHS machine time shifting and a bittorrent time shifting. However, if it were a pay-channel only or PPV, it gets murkier. Presumably it would be OK still, if you were a current subscriber to that channel.

    What wouldn't be OK would be bringing in a copy of a TV show that wasn't offered in your market, or that you hadn't paid for in your cable subscription.
  4. hookahco thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2005
    To Live n Die in L.A. California
    if it wasnt in my market, it wouldnt be very bad to download it since i had no other way of watching it. but, if i didnt want to pay for it in my cable subscription, that would be the same as downloading a motion picture because you don't want to rent/buy/see it in theaters.

    ill be straightforward.. not only did i miss it but my cute friend did too so me being the nice guy that i am had to find out what happened so she could know. i mean, i didnt sell it or anything.. and i will still watch it.
    that brings me to something else.. if im downloading a tv show instead of watching it on my dvr, whats the difference? i still fast forward through the commercials. well.. i think ratings might have something to do with it.
  5. Lacero macrumors 604


    Jan 20, 2005
    On the other hand, some movies I will never consider paying 10 bucks to see in the theater or buying the DVD or even renting. However, if it were readily available on BitTorrrent and I had time, I might download it to watch. Then just as quickly, delete it off my hard drive. Does that make me a bad person? Perhaps.

    Without BitTorrent, the content producer would have had no way to get me to watch their product. You know, for every evil thing one can say about the bad effects of BT, I can point to one good thing about BitTorrent.
  6. fayans macrumors 6502a


    Sep 19, 2005
    MacRumors: Forums
    The rule of thumbs is "do anything you want but don't get caught." Ethical or not, to each his own.

    Seriously speaking, how many of us against using P2P publicly and still using it privately?
  7. Savage Henry macrumors 65816

    Savage Henry

    Feb 20, 2004
    in a one horse, two house, three pub town.
    I don't know what it's like over there, but here if there is a program that the networks consider even slightly popular each episode is shown a least 3 times in a week; so you can invariably catch the same episode later on.

    Until they make it legal, then, um, it's not.
  8. watcher2001 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 9, 2005
    38° 12'47.72" N 85° 31'54.63" W
    Now there is where I have issue. Not with the fact that you got it off of bit torrent mind you, Instead of telling her about it you should have invited her over to watch it with you... :) :)
  9. Xeem macrumors 6502a


    Feb 2, 2005
    I don't consider using torrents to download TV unethical, especially if it's just someone's TiVo or VHS rip. Most ripped seasons of TV shows on torrent sites are DVD rips, though- definitely much more dangerous territory.
  10. Lacero macrumors 604


    Jan 20, 2005
    All the same... btw Xeem, have you considered adding an e to the beginning of your name? ;)
  11. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    I'm a member of ScreenSelect, a DVD home delivery service in the UK, similar to NetFlix in the US.

    Some of the DVDs I order, e.g. David Lynch's Blue Velvet or Peter Jackson's Bad Taste, have no subtitles. Usually, I don't know till I try playing the actual DVD, as the information on the website can be sketchy or misleading.

    I'm Deaf - I cannot follow the film without subtitles - so what am I to do? I've paid my money, purchased the right to watch it, the MPAA have their share of my money. But I can't access it.

    This isn't about whether I run Windows or Linux or OS X, or which movie player I use. It's about watching what I paid for, being able to follow the dialogue.

    I'm not interested in getting a refund - I just want to watch the film I paid for. ScreenSelect's policy is to say return the film and they will send out another one, or give you some free subscription time. Works for some people, but I just want to watch the film I rented.

    [I make arthouse shorts, and I study filmmaking - David Lynch's stuff is a must see in any film school. But that doesn't matter. I could be just Joe Deaf Schmo with a taste for classic films]

    So I fire up BitTorrent, and download a subbed version, or search the sites for a .sub file.

    I prefer to find a subbed version, as with .sub files, it can take me a hour or more to find a .sub file that works and is the right length with the right timings.

    [I can't listen to the film to check synch - I have to find a clear bit of spoken dialogue near the end of the film, guess what it could be by reading the .sub file, play both, and try to work out which lip movement was which line of dialogue in the .sub file. Do I need to slow down subtitle display by 5 seconds or speed it up by two minutes? - or was I reading the wrong line of dialogue?]

    Even just downloading the .sub file likely breaches the copyright to the film script.

    I've only been able to do this the last couple of years, and it's been a godsend - finally, I can watch the classics that I always wanted to watch, but never got subtitled.

    I leave the ethics of that up to you. It's certainly illegal. But I'm happy to stand up in any court and explain myself to the judge.


    .. RedTomato ..
  12. Dagless macrumors Core


    Jan 18, 2005
    Fighting to stay in the EU
    I dont download music (not when you have friends with it all ;) ) but i wouldn't find it hard to download it if need be. Just open a newspaper and theres another band on cocaine or another singer caught with a drug dealer or falling out of a taxi outside an uber-expensive night club.

    point is everyone in the industry is making too much money, except probably the engineers. the fat cat music bosses and the bands all get too much. i know a few bands in my area, popular ones at that (aka. on a big label). some of those haven't sold many albums but are still totally loaded. its been like that for years! if they can afford to live in massive detached mansions and can afford hundreds of guitars then what does that say about the bigger bands?

    its all about greed.

    BitTorrent? ethical. never ever brandish it as fully illegal, there are many legal torrents out there. and its a good way of spreading files around. This games company I know spread out files on BT when their own file servers are reaching their bandwidth limit.
  13. Savage Henry macrumors 65816

    Savage Henry

    Feb 20, 2004
    in a one horse, two house, three pub town.
    So who do you think are the first to lose out if industry cut-backs are made ... execs? ... artsists? ... or the engineers and low ranking employees ? hmmmm ... the plebs get it first, everytime without fail.
  14. thedude110 macrumors 68020


    Jun 13, 2005
    I understand your argument, but only to a socially contextualized point. Consider contemporary (avant-gardeish) poets and painters, most of whom can not make a profit on their work (despite the fact that much of it, in my opinion, is significant, human work). Poetry, especially, is relegated to a position outside of capitalism. Yet poetry goes on, even though no one is making their livelihood at it (poets are teaching and working in factories and doing whatever to pay the bills).

    Another way of saying this -- does intellectual property naturally exist, or is it a product of capitalism? I would argue that most poets -- and many musicians -- believe that once they've created and published the poem or song, it belongs to the people and the culture more than it belongs to themselves (and I think the popularity of p2p provides dramatic evidence of this as a natural, human truth). And, at the expense of sounding like Robin Hood ( :eek: ), I would argue that it's the system that has corrupted the definition of intellectual property -- that the people are working to set it right again.

    An alternative? All artists should be working off equivalent and significant federal stipends -- no artist's livelihood should be dependent on the popularity of their work (a system which has granted riches upon riches to Britney Spears but leaves writers like Lisa Jarnot virtually outside the Western conversation).
  15. iMeowbot macrumors G3


    Aug 30, 2003
    Oh, it's not a ratings thing, ripped copies don't really affect what survey companies are trying to measure.

    The big problem with p2p is that you aren't simply downloading (as others noted, it's little different from recording at home with a VCR), but you are also uploading to others at the same time. You have know way of checking that the other downloaders are in a market where advertisers have paid to have the show aired, or that the downloaders have otherwise paid to see the episode. That's where the ethics really start to fall apart.
  16. eva01 macrumors 601


    Feb 22, 2005
    Gah! Plymouth
    I use bittorrent for unlicensed anime and also WoW updates.
  17. slimflem macrumors regular


    Sep 10, 2005
    I'm sorry, but these sorts of threads just make me roll my eyes. Do you guys honestly believe that using BitTorrent or another p2p is wrong to grab a TV show. You know what, who cares. It amazes me that on this Mac forum that everyone is so timid about downloading anything. It appears the scare tactics and the *AA's are really getting to this group. Being a recent switcher over from Windows, it amazes me. Maybe it's because there aren't near the quantity of tools on Mac as Windows for all this and the users of this board just don't have the exposure to it. I download music all the time. Why? So I don't waste my money on an expensive cd unless I know I really like it. When I find a group that I really enjoy and is not some commercial sellout band, then I have no problem buying their music on iTunes or a cd from amazon or something like that. This country (US) is way to greedy, to sue-happy, and way too quick to try and squash the very people that can make the money come in for these nutbag *AA's. If I buy something, I'm going to do whatever I want to with it. I don't give a flip what someone else says.
  18. MongoTheGeek macrumors 68040


    Sep 13, 2003
    Its not so much where you are as when you are.
    So many thoughts and things to say.

    1) BitTorrent is a tool like an axe or a car. For good or ill.
    2) Watching a TV program off of Bittorent is slightly shady since the content was available for "Free"
    a) But since you didn't watch it it wouldn't count towards ratings so it indirectly takes money out of the pockets of producers.
    b) Not available in the market isn't necessarily better and could be worse at least legally. The law has been trending towards allowing rights holders to restrict content geographically, and that has always to a certain extent been allowed and in some cases manditory, for instance blacking out a ball game when the gate fall below a certain level.
    3) RedTomato has an excellent point and is (at least under US law as I understand it) in the right.
    4) Compulsory licensing seems to be the way of the future. It will suck hard for Apple but the alternatives seem to be a a cultural stagnation where there is no reward for creation of new material or a stagnation of technology.
  19. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Thanks MongoTheGeek, tho I'm pretty sure that most juristictions in the world would regard my acts as technically illegal - as the MPAA / content owners have not formally approved my means of accessing their content. There's other legal issues as well which I don't feel like going into at the moment, timeshifting is one of them.

    Whether a judge / jury would actually convict is a different matter - I've had experience of being arrested doing stuff, standing up in court saying yes I did it, and explaining why, and the judge telling me to go home and don't worry about it. (stressful procedure tho, and good-hearted lawyers helped a lot)


    .. RedTomato ..
  20. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    No longer logging into MR
    There are many technologies that can be used illegally. I use BitTorrent to download Linux isos but that's not illegal. If we banned every technology that supported illegal activity, FTP and HTTP would have been gone a long time ago.
  21. moot macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2004
    in the great Asian wonderland

    But surely time shifting using a VHS machine is different to getting it from others. That is like re-broadcasting it, isn' it.

    As for the ethical decision, surely that's up to you. Everybody will decide differently on this as we all have our own value system.

    Just my thoughts
  22. greatdevourer macrumors 68000

    Aug 5, 2005
    Yes. How is BT not ethical? Is taking strain off home servers really bothering your concience? If so, then wtf?
  23. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    Now just what exactly is your definition of a 'commercial sellout band'?
  24. RobHague macrumors 6502

    Jul 8, 2005
    I've always used P2P.... isnt that what people want 8meg+ connections for? :confused:

    I buy DVD's, Music, games ect sometimes i download them. Including TV episodes of shows ive missed (if i can find them). And yes, even software sometimes. Actually i lie, i have not downloaded games - i like to own them ^_^ with the fancy box's, same with software but sometimes that costs £1000+

    There are always two sides to this argument that always say the same things anyhow, one side says "ITS STEALING! YOU THEF!! J00 SUCK0RS" and the others are "I WOULDNT HAVE BOUGHT IT ANYWAYS! THEY OWE ME FOR USING IT!!!". Personally i dont think the world is going to stop because someone downloaded an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer because they missed it on TV. ;) I have discovered a lot of artists by downloading mp3's too (since napster days) that i wouldnt have heard of otherwise. I like to have the proper product in my hands, even if i have an exact duplicate i prefer to have something of substance i can stick on my shelf :p, not a load of CD-R's. The only things ive saved that i 'downloaded' over P2P would be Muic and Video (mainly episodes of anime :p) and ive just started investigating iTunes properly since getting a Mac ^_^ so i might consider a switch of music habbits soon.

    I think i had a point somewhere but i forgot what it was.
  25. XNine macrumors 68040


    Apr 7, 2005
    Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?
    Honestly, I don't care. If Metallica loses 5 bucks or 5 million, I could care less as they suck anyway, and they have more than enough money to last 6 generations of their family for being a really "good in the old days but now they suck kinda band.

    I downloaded the ENTIRE first season of arrested development. I ended up watching 4 episodes then buying the boxset, then bought the 2nd boxset and am currently watching the third on TV (when that godforsaken sport known as Baseball isn't taking the time slot, that is). So when the third season coems out, I'll buy it too.

    Lots of Anime in my collection was fansubbed and I downloaded it to see if I liked it. If I did, I bought every DVD in the series (when it officially became licensed in America). If I didn't I trashed it.

    I don't pirate music on a large scale, and usually it's stuff by bands I idolize and they don't release the actual song, like MDFMK's Amerikan Dream song that was never released ANYWHERE on disc. So, they didn't "lose" any money off it anyway. My music and Anime collections are too large for words. I actually need to buy a much larger bookshelf to accomdate my Anime now, as they're all stacked and out of order.

    So, do I use P2P? Yes. Do I spread copyright content around like a child molester offers puppies? No. Do I support those products if I like them? Yes. So when the RIAA or MPAA or whoever comes knocking, I've got hundreds of DVD's and CD's and Records to say "oh yeah? **** YOU! I bought it and you can take your lawsuit and shove it, fool!" :D

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