Open source, P2P and the Pirate Party

The Swedish champion of civil liberties and scourge of outdated monopolist Copyright and Patent Laws has made it to the UK. The Pirate Party, famous for losing a recent P2P file-sharing trial, is bloodied unbowed and recruiting.

...good timing too. Riding roughshod over the Minister for Transformation Tom Watson, the First Secretary of State, Lord Peter Mandelson recently announced that whole families will have their broadband access cut if any one of them is caught illegally sharing files.


This all appears to be a sop to the media industry but I think it is far more significant than that. Sure P2P is (in)famous for music piracy, indeed the Pirate Party has made it a cause celebre, but P2P gives its participants unprecedented levels of freedom. P2P media piracy is only an issue because it is so hard to prevent, hence Lord Mandelson's desire to snip their cables.

Shouldn't I be taking kids illegally file-sharing music and videos more seriously? After all they are damaging the (not-insubstantial) profits of the media giants?

No, put aside for one moment the above criminality and think more generally about individuals using the Internet free from control, collaborating and sharing as they see fit.

Good for innovation, bad for centralised control. P2P is about personal freedom, which of course means freedom to do good and bad.

The press thinks that the problem is about the media sharing and that Mandy 'does not get' the Internet. On the contrary I think he gets it very well.

Open Source and Freedom

We in the Open Source world are deeply law abiding (of course) but like the Pirate Party are ourselves none too keen on the abuse of Patent Law by large powerful corporations.

Many of us too are troubled, certainly in the UK, by the growth of a surveillance society and the erosion of our civil liberties through an apparently insatiable appetite for government database projects.

The Pirate Party and the Open Source community have ground in common; a love of freedom.

Make no mistake, The Pirate Party may be on the exotic Scandinavian fringe but at its heart is P2P. File sharing which is part of P2P is shaping up to be one of the biggest political issues of our time. I believe that P2P is at the heart of a debate surrounding the Internet which amounts to (once again) control versus freedom.

P2P is a technology made famous through Open Source projects such as BitTorrent and Limewire, without which student's musical life would be unrecognisable. Presented below is an exploration of P2P which amounts to an attempt to indicate just how important it is to our freedoms in general.

P2P v The Cloud

P2P is the antithesis of the Cloud. The former uses individual computers that interact with each other using the Internet merely as a relay infrastructure. The latter is a server-centric model where services and data are hosted centrally and with which individual computers interact with the servers via the Internet.

In the server-centric model you (the user) do not own the servers providing your services. This means that you ultimately have no control over what happens to them, your services or your data. This is simply a fact of life not a criticism of the providers. The Cloud concept just makes it all a bit easier that's all.

Most people now seem to accept that governments throughout the world have the ability to take your personal data held by these providers for their own use when they so wish. This includes conversations, text, messages, e-mails and anything else stored/logged you can think of. Therefore, whilst authorities can control Cloud-based services, they fear P2P. The only way of dealing with people interacting P2P is to cut them off.

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