Nov 102008
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Although I was aware of Napster, Kazaa, LimeWire and other second-generation file sharing systems I was never much of a fan.  It’s not that I had a problem “giving back” to the “community”, but rather I really didn’t like the security holes that ran rampant with them all.  The idea of opening my computer to anyone with a modicum of knowledge just didn’t sit right with me.  if you want in, you should have to fight your way in.  Then came BitTorrent.  Not only was it faster, but it was much more secure as well.  Media flowed onto my system as easily as water flowed from the taps (but I didn’t have to pay for any of this media).

It’s been about seven years now that I’ve been using BitTorrent to download large files from the internet. In that time I’ve seen dozens of trackers come and go. Many due to staffing or technical problems, some due to government interference of various types. I was even a member of a couple of “private” trackers that turned out to be run by the FBI the whole time. Thanks for all the great free movies and programs, Uncle Sam!

However, (until last week)  it had been more than three months since I made any illegal downloads.  My BitTorrent client (Azureus/Vuze) had been delegated to the useful, but fully legal, status of helping spreadthe message of freedom by seeding the monthly archives of Free Talk Live.  It wasn’t the FBI or fear of prosecution that spared the media moguls the (supposedly) millions of dollars in losses that I and my fellow pirates supposedly inflicted upon them.  Nor was it some form of guilty conscience or newfound moral belief.  No, it was matter of convenience.

You see, it was about four months ago that the television in my room died of old age. At the time I was broke, so couldn’t replace it. A friend then told me about the Netflix “Watch Instantly” program that offers hundreds of movies and television shows for immediate download (in addition to their great thru-the-mail DVD rental). Within hours I was hooked and had a queue of several hundred “discs” in my queue for instant watching. Finally, the market had come up with a solution to sate my media hunger!

Sure, via Netflix I wasn’t seeing the movies currently in theaters, but any that actually had me excited I was paying to go see rather than downloading anyway. I downloaded video so I’d have something to watch, not to watch a particular show.  Television had, largely, filled that need, but with the minimum cost of a cable or satellite package approaching $100/month and the ease of free downloads the math kept me online.  Of course, if the cable and satellite companies had been free to offer true a la carte programming, instead of being locked into the obscenely bloated packages the government required them to offer things may have been different.  But as anyone who pays attention knows, America hasn’t been a free market for a very, very long time.

Netflix gave me exactly what I wanted – a broad selection of entertainment, ready when ever I wanted to consume it, at a reasonable price (less than $10/month).  Once I got hooked into Netflix it took me almost six weeks to even realize that I was no longer pirating media.  There was simply no longer a need.  This ‘new’ system was easier and more convenient.  The fact that it was ‘legal’ and actually helped support the creators of the entertainment that I valued were mere icing on the cake.  The search for profit led the market to fulfill my needs without my even having to ask.  That is the true beauty of freedom.

Oh, for those of wondering why I want back to my ‘evil’ ways in the last week, it’s because my bank screwed up my debit card a few days before Netflix tried to charge my monthly fee.  So my account’s suspended while things get worked out with the beauracy.  Meanwhile I’m cringing for the variety that Netflix offers and making due with sub-par pirated releases.

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