Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nuanced pornographer crackdown on file locker sites

This article on torrentfreak brought up some interesting questions for me today.  Basically it's about a pornographer who is making a hobby of taking down file locker sites by convincing PayPal not to process payments for them any more.

File lockers are basically sites where users can upload material, and download it from each other.  Personally, they seem to me to be sites for the bittorrent disabled.  It's like, come on people, bittorrent isn't that hard to use.

They are different from bittorrent in a couple ways.  First, they actually do host tons of data.  Bittorrent sites only point to it.  Also, they typically charge money to get access to the data (or for faster access to it).  So they fall pretty short of my non-commercial fair use ideal.

They typically defend themselves by pointing out how all their content is uploaded by their users.  But to me, that just underlines the fact that they didn't create it, and thus should not be making money from it.

If they did it for free, I'd be okay with it.  But that would be hideously expensive, since they're actually hosting the data, which is why they need to charge.

Which it seems to me then...why not run a torrent site?  So okay, they're in it for the money, and I'll just go ahead and condemn them for the moment.

Of course, the way this guy in the article is going about it is unusual.  Basically he looks for something actually illegal on the site, and then shows it to PayPal, whom he's managed to convince to take him seriously.

If you've been reading this site,  you know that I'm not exactly a huge fan of taking down websites.  But that's not to say it should never, ever, be done.  Of course not.  There is stuff out there that we really don't need.  But we do need to limit it to the smallest set of stuff, possible, for the good of the internet and, thus, the humans.

So I have some mixed feelings about this aspect of this.  I like that he isn't abusing the legal system like the RIAA and MPAA do.  But of course this guy is a pornographer, and those guys aren't exactly known for their profound sense of ethics.  And indeed, according to the article, his stated goal is to take down all file locker sites, which I think is unconscionable.  If they're doing it for free, I say leave them alone.  It's not their fault they're too dumb to run a torrent site ;-)

And there is the other issue of how does one filter out "bad stuff" from a site where users upload lots of data?  I illustrated this before in describing the impossibility of YouTube "filtering" all copyrighted material.  Since we already have a censorship regime in place in America, at least, shouldn't they be allowed to take the offending material down, first, before having their financing yanked out from under them?  Of course, I daresay most file locker sites have the sense not to be located in America, the land of the free.


  1. As someone who uses both private-tracker torrenting AND file-locker site's I have to take issue with your claims that the latter are only for the torrent-disabled. Amid mounting threats to digital safety file-locker sites remain far safer than any sort of true or more sophisticated sharing.

  2. You're right I don't think I justified that very well. The concern to me about file locker sites is their logs. Because you're always authenticated (if you're paying for it) that is just more data to be seized, it seems to me.

    I realize the same is true of private trackers, however, but generally without the money trail. And I guess that's what concerns me about the file lockers.

    I'd be curious why you believe they are actually "safer".