Can you own data?

The lightning talks that we’ve been having in class have expanded what I know about technology (which honestly isn’t too much), and also the way I think about technology. The topic regarding the Digital Millenium Copyright act made me question whether or not one can own data.

There are many methods that someone can obtain data. This can be through purchasing it online (ie. iTunes, GooglePlay, the App Store, etc.), or the same products can also be obtained through torrenting. While purchasing data such as music, from somewhere like iTunes, it may be legal, but it also costs money. Naturally, everyone is always trying to find ways to save their money and avoid spending it whenever they can. This is where torrenting becomes a popular habit. Why buy an album on iTunes when you can download it for free? Well, torrenting is illegal, so even though the album may have been free, it’s similar to picking up the album in a record store and walking out without even paying for it.Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.03.51 PM

One of the most commonly used torrent networks is BitTorrent. In order to send or receive files, one must have a BitTorrent client, a computer program that allows for the BitTorrent procedure. uTorrent, Vuze, and Xunlei are examples of commonly used clients. More than a quarter of a billion people are estimated to be using BitTorrent on a monthly basis.

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A torrent file is a file on computers that contain metadata about files and folders that are to be distributed, and also it usually contains a list of the network locations of trackers. These trackers are computers that help participants in the system find each other and to form efficient distribution groups that are called “swarms”. A torrent file does not contain the content to be distributed it only contains information about those files, such as their names, sizes, folder structure, and cryptographic hash values for verifying file integrity.

You can pretty much torrent anything you want, such as music, programs, apps, movies, etc. Doing so can put your computer at risk because there are so many Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.48.02 AMways that your IP address can be obtained, allowing hackers to get into your computer or allowing yourself to get caught for illegal activity.

The lightning talk topic of “What is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act?” is very relevant to the idea of torrenting. The DMCA is a U.S. copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It is the criminalization of the production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services that are intended to circumvent measures (digital rights management) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalized the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. The DMCA’s main innovation in the field of copyright is the exemption from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries. So even though you may see your download of one song or one movie as innocent, you are in fact participating in criminal activity.

There are many different opinions regarding the topic of torrenting. One popular topic of discussion is the idea of torrenting music. Some people are completely against the idea, arguing that it is taking away money from the artists and the record label, while others argue that it is essentially the same concept as listening to music on the radio or giving a friend a mixtape. Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl feels very strongly about this subject. “I think it’s a good idea because it’s people trading music. It has nothing to do with industry or finance, it’s just people that want music and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the same as someone turning on the fucking radio, it’s the same as someone putting a cassette in a cassette deck when the BBC plays a special radio session. I don’t think it’s a crime, it’s been going on for years. It’s the same as people making tapes for each other. The industry is more threatened by it because it’s the worldwide web and it’s a broader scope of trading, but I don’t think it’s such a f*****g horrible thing. The first thing we should do is get all the f*****g millionaires to shut their mouths, stop bitching about the 25 cents a time they’re losing.” Now I personally agree with this opinion, that downloading music online may not be the worst thing in the world, however; there are some people, like Lars Ulrich of Metallica, who have a very different view towards piracy, “It is sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is.”  I think that a lot of these opinions vary based on the person and the type of piracy that is being committed. Torrenting a 99 cent song as opposed to a $500 program definitely is much worse, however; both are still technically a crime.

So overall I think that the idea of owning data is possible, because, much like buying or stealing a product from a store, you can buy or steal a form of data. It’s true that you may not own the physical copy, but you still own it on your device. As long as it’s a form of theft then I see it as ownership.

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