BitDepth#897 - August 06

Digitally driven piracy is a global phenomenon, two stories from this country reflect different aspects of tormenting, the engine that lubricates so much of modern filesharing.
A torrent of piracy
Devanand Teelucksingh of the TTCS (left) and Dr Patrick Hosein.

Optional image caption: The current Kickass Torrents website being hosted on a Tonga domain.

Patrick Hosein, the administrator for the .tt domain, was approached a couple of months ago to become part of the global stream of torrented files.
According to Dr Hosein, Maik Schultz applied to him for the domain, which the domain administrator soon discovered would host popular torrent aggregator Kickass Torrents.

On realising this, he drew Schultz’s attention to the
policies of the national domain and the site was removed.
Most recently, the torrenting site used the domain to redirect to a new nation domain originating in Tonga. Patrick Hosein has since deactivated the domain, pending further discussions Mr Schultz.
“They were asked to remove the association with KT,” explained Dr Hosein, “since that site points to sources of copyrighted material.”

So what’s a torrent and why is it causing all this fuss?
The BitTorrent protocol for sharing files on the Internet was created by developer Bram Cohen and released to the world in 2001.
It’s a powerful way to share files that takes advantage of the distributed nature of computing power on the web. It also avoids the centralisation of files that eventually killed Napster.

To create a torrent, one person seeds the file from their computer, offering it through a BitTorrent client. Users connect to the file using a tiny text link that describes where the file is. Such users can be peers who also share the file, or leechers who only download the file without sharing it.

In an Internet of sharing, seeders are valuable but peers are the real lubricant of torrents. For that reason, many torrent clients are designed to act as peers unless users specifically turn off the function.
When torrents work well, peers abound and files are transmitted very quickly. Popularity counts for a lot on torrent sites. That’s why grabbing a new single by say, One Direction, takes a matter of seconds but an obscure album by Miles Davis can take days, if not months to download.

Torrenting requires three things to work well.
Someone, preferably several people, to seed exactly the same file, all described by one, endlessly duplicated online text link and many peers willing to upload the file while they download it.
Then there needs to be a website to host the text links that describe the files that are available for download. That’s what Kickass Torrents does.

These torrent sites, the most famous of which is The Pirate Bay, claim that they host no copyrighted materials, but their listings abound with thousands links to television shows, movies, music, pornography and books, none of which will earn their creators a cent in income.

Torrents ferry hundreds of thousands of terabytes of content between computers every hour and most of this data is illegally obtained entertainment in digital format, but is this all that torrents are good for?
Several independent film makers have used torrent seeds of their work as a distribution model. Jamin and Kiowa Winans, who were hitting a stone wall with their quirky film Ink in traditional distribution channels, found a whole new
audience on torrent networks.
Linux distributions are also made available using the protocol.

When the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS) began producing a
CD and later a DVD of free and open source software they began exploring torrents as a way to share a digital disk image of the collection.
The ISO (named after the file extension of the disk image format) was seeded first on TTCS founder Devanand Teelucksingh’s home computer.

“It posed some challenges doing it myself,” Teelucksingh said.
“Because of the size of the OSSWIN file and being the main seeder, seeding the file from home would consume my upload bandwidth when I first tried around 2006.”
There were also too few peers serving the file so the torrenting (or tormenting, as Teelucksingh’s autocorrect helpfully inserted) didn’t work out.

The TTCS has since tried several ways of sharing the file using torrents, most of which cost money that the nonprofit doesn’t have.
“I never got the feeling that torrenting just worked and I could ignore it,” Teelucksingh admitted, “I felt I had to babysit it and watch it all the time, looking back.”
The hefty disk image is now hosted by a German software site, and via file sharing service GE.TT.

Like most digital techonogies, torrenting as a way of moving data between computers is as innocent as FTP or HTTP, protocols that underpin the success of the Internet.
But torrenting has become inextricably linked with digital piracy and the consequences of that are a digital underground of shared files and constantly moving websites listing torrent descriptors and a stifling of the official development a perfectly useful way to distribute large files between computer systems.
As Patrick Hosein said of his experience with Kickass Torrents, “The .ph registry (Phillipines domain) had to seize because of legal action taken against them by the music industry. I did not believe that .tt should get involved in similar actions.”
For comprehensive news coverage of torrents visit

Even if you’ve never downloaded a single torrent, chances are that you’ve viewed one. The cycle of movie torrents coincides almost exactly with local releases of pirated films through local video outlets.
A CAM torrent describes the shaky first release of a new film, captured on a home video camera. Next comes a TS or telescine release, an enterprising pirate’s mix of the best video and the best audio available as torrents.

Next comes a DVDrip, which usually an early DVD released for Oscar consideration with the usual useless anti-piracy warnings and then a BrRip, a “clean” file taken from either a DVD or BluRay recording of the film.
Finally, the largest torrents appear, full 1080p BluRay rips and DVD ISO images of actual disc releases.
Most local video houses have their own descriptions of these quality shifts that are less techy than the online descriptors.
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