Professionalism/Bit Torrent and Bit Coin
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BitTorrent & BitCoin
Are engineers responsible for how people utilize their inventions?
Facebook is a well known social networking site with almost one billion users. Blizzard is a game developer that has made many popular online games like World of Warcraft and Starcraft. Both companies face two different engineering problems. Facebook has thousands of servers all over the world that it needs to update code on. These updates need to be done in a short time window so their users do not get out of sync. In Blizzard’s case, it has to send many gigabytes of data, in the form of game content updates, to all its users. All updates need to be done simultaneously, which would require a huge number of servers. This would be costly and inefficient because the rest of the year when updates are not being pushed out, these servers would go to waste. Both companies have been extremely successful in their operations and have found a solution to their engineering problems.
The solution is the BitTorrent protocol, created by Bram Cohen in 2001. The main idea behind BitTorren is to decentralize information so data can be distributed more quickly and to more users. Typically, there is one host server that contains the file. This host breaks the file down into pieces and distributes different pieces to different users. Now each user can get the remaining pieces that it needs from any other users. Essentially, every user becomes a server that can upload content to anyone else. BitTorrent is even used by researchers to distribute large data sets. Recent studies found that BitTorrent traffic now accounts for almost 60% of all Internet traffic. Companies are able to take advantage of bittorrent. Individual users can also take advantage of it. In the past, users have utilized bittorrent mainly through media sharing. In 1999, Napster was created. It was the first mp3 file sharing P2P networks. Napster really started the trend and idea of sharing music.
This trend led to other popular sites like Kazaa, which was created in 2001. Kazaa expanded upon music sharing and enabled users to share everything from movies to software. BitTorrent popularized the idea of file sharing. In theory it works great. Users love it because now they essentially have access to any content for free. However, not all social groups are positively benefited. Particularly, the movie and music industries started lobbying Congress on issue of copyright infringement. In a study done by researchers, of the 1000 most popular torrent files, only 3 files were non-infringing content. The Pirate Bay, a Swedish-based bittorrent search engine, has faced copyright controversy over past years. During the Beijing Olympics, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) asked the Swedish government to prevent clips from being distributed via the Pirate Bay specifically. But in response, not only did the Pirate Bay continue distributing Olympic content, they even temporarily changed their logo to “The Beijing Bay”. In 2009, they were ultimately sued for copyright infringement on these movies, shows, games and the founders of Pirate Bay were sentenced to one year in prison and fined 30 million Swedish kronor (which is $4.4 million). They each appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. But, very recently, in February 2012, the Swedish Supreme Court found them guilty. In contrast to the founders of The Pirate Bay, Bram Cohen never faced legal issues. This is because his company never distributed links to unlicensed material. He gave this response when asked about copyright infringement. “It’s completely legal to create technical solutions. The reason people get dragged into legal proceedings is that they break copyright laws, which I have never done.”
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