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No, Google Drive is Definitely Not The New Pirate Bay

Added: Monday, September, 11, 2017

This week, citing a crackdown on torrent sites, numerous articles declared Google Drive and similar cloud storage services to be "The New Pirate Bay". While such platforms can indeed facilitate the distribution of content, there should be no illusion that they offer anything like the decentralization and corporate detachment offered by BitTorrent-based sharing.

Running close to two decades old, the world of true mainstream file-sharing is less of a mystery to the general public than it’s ever been.

Most people now understand the concept of shifting files from one place to another, and a significant majority will be aware of the opportunities to do so with infringing content.

Unsurprisingly, this is a major thorn in the side of rightsholders all over the world, who have been scrambling since the turn of the century in a considerable effort to stem the tide. The results of their work have varied, with some sectors hit harder than others.

One area that has taken a bit of a battering recently involves the dominant peer-to-peer platforms reliant on underlying BitTorrent transfers. Several large-scale sites have shut down recently, not least KickassTorrents, Torrentz, and ExtraTorrent, raising questions of what bad news may arrive next for inhabitants of Torrent Land.

Of course, like any other Internet-related activity, sharing has continued to evolve over the years, with streaming and cloud-hosting now a major hit with consumers. In the main, sites which skirt the borders of legality have been the major hosting and streaming players over the years, but more recently it’s become clear that even the most legitimate companies can become unwittingly involved in the piracy scene.

As reported here on TF back in 2014 and again several times this year (1,2,3), cloud-hosting services operated by Google, including Google Drive, are being used to store and distribute pirate content.

That news was echoed again this week, with a report on Gadgets360 reiterating that Google Drive is still being used for movie piracy. What followed were a string of follow up reports, some of which declared Google’s service to be ‘The New Pirate Bay.’

No. Just no.

While it’s always tempting for publications to squeeze a reference to The Pirate Bay into a piracy article due to the site’s popularity, it’s particularly out of place in this comparison. In no way, shape, or form can a centralized store of data like Google Drive ever replace the underlying technology of sites like The Pirate Bay.

While the casual pirate might love the idea of streaming a movie with a couple of clicks to a browser of his or her choice, the weakness of the cloud system cannot be understated. To begin with, anything hosted by Google is vulnerable to immediate takedown on demand, usually within a matter of hours.

“Google Drive has a variety of piracy counter-measures in place,” a spokesperson told Mashable this week, “and we are continuously working to improve our protections to prevent piracy across all of our products.”

When will we ever hear anything like that from The Pirate Bay? Answer: When hell freezes over. But it’s not just compliance with takedown requests that make Google Drive-hosted files vulnerable.

At the point Google Drive responds to a takedown request, it takes down the actual file. On the other hand, even if Pirate Bay responded to notices (which it doesn’t), it would be unable to do anything about the sharing going on underneath. Removing a torrent file or magnet link from TPB does nothing to negatively affect the decentralized swarm of people sharing files among themselves. Those files stay intact and sharing continues, no matter what happens to the links above.

Importantly, people sharing using BitTorrent do so without any need for central servers – the whole process is decentralized as long as a user can lay his or her hands on a torrent file or magnet link. Those using Google Drive, however, rely on a totally centralized system, where not only is Google king, but it can and will stop the entire party after receiving a few lines of text from a rightsholder.

There is a very good reason why sites like The Pirate Bay have been around for close to 15 years while platforms such as Megaupload, Hotfile, Rapidshare, and similar platforms have all met their makers. File-hosting platforms are expensive-to-run warehouses full of files, each of which brings direct liability for their hosts, once they’re made aware that those files are infringing. These days the choice is clear – take the files down or get brought down, it’s as simple as that.

The Pirate Bay, on the other hand, is nothing more than a treasure map (albeit a valuable one) that points the way to content spread all around the globe in the most decentralized way possible. There are no files to delete, no content to disappear. Comparing a vulnerable Google Drive to this kind of robust system couldn’t be further from the mark.

That being said, this is the way things are going. The cloud, it seems, is here to stay in all its forms. Everyone has access to it and uploading content is easier – much easier – than uploading it to a BitTorrent network. A Google Drive upload is simplicity itself for anyone with a mouse and a file; the same cannot be said about The Pirate Bay.

For this reason alone, platforms like Google Drive and the many dozens of others offering a similar service will continue to become havens for pirated content, until the next big round of legislative change. At the moment, each piece of content has to be removed individually but in the future, it’s possible that pre-emptive filters will kill uploads of pirated content before they see the light of day.

When this comes to pass, millions of people will understand why Google Drive, with its bots checking every file upload for alleged infringement, is not The Pirate Bay. At this point, if people have left it too long, it might be too late to reinvigorate BitTorrent networks to their former glory.

People will try to rebuild them, of course, but realizing why they shouldn’t have been left behind at all is probably the best protection.

 

source TF


Posted by: 
digster

Date: Monday, September, 11, 2017


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