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Since I added a DSL connection last summer,  I've been happily downloading plenty of live and rare music  (and,  recently,  a few fan-made DVD's as well).  I've done straight Web-based downloads a song at a time plus full-show downloads using FTP,  binary newsgroups,  and Direct-Connect.  My preferred method remains one-way transfers rather than the methods where someone is uploading bits of the same show at the same time you are trying to download it;  one way is simply faster.

But for the most recent shows,  you really can't beat BitTorrent.  There are so many avid tapers on such torrent-oriented sites as EzTorrent (aka EasyTree) and Traders' Den that concerts are usually available within hours of the last notes being played.  Since the new U2 tour began in San Diego less than a week ago,  I've downloaded all four shows they've played so far  (plus two different source recordings of one night's show -- it can interesting to see the difference in sound taped by different microphones and locations).  Torrent sites are also great for archival material;  I recently downloaded a Marillion DVD from 1991  (a German television broadcast)  that I had known nothing about previously.  While on the phone with a friend the other day,  I was asked if I had any Midnight Oil shows;  having only one,  I did a search at EasyTree and came up with five or six in the first few pages of results.

But with the recent U.S. Government crack-down on peer-to-peer groups such as Napster  (which hosted primarily officially-released material that was copyright-protected),  some people have been asking about the legality of concert downloads.  One major host of one-way downloads, Live Music Archive only allows "trade-friendly" artists and requires the artists to file a permission form.  EasyTree,  on the other hand,  allows all performers but if an artist specifically requests their shows not to be torrented then they are included on a "banned artists" list.  Indeed,  many groups have found it beneficial to allow the taping,  trading,  and -- most of the time -- downloading of their shows as a great way to spread the word and promote themselves without having to outlay any cash themselves.

Bootlegging itself has always been a rather grey area,  although a Federal judge last month struck down the 1994 anti-bootleg law making even the sale of these recordings legal for the time being  (a practice most fans of the music find reprehensible -- preferring to allow the free sharing of these recordings).

But,  back to the legality of the BitTorrents:  the following commentary was posted yesterday  (April 1st)  at World Media Host.  I found it quite interesting in light of my own recent downloading activities.

Friday, April 1, 2005.


Some of you are concerned about the legality of torrents.  I too,  remember the days of Kazaa & Napster as well as WinXP before any of the companies were taken to court and then went legit.  Unlike those companies,  read about this one,  a legal site no one can shut down - yet.  Below is a link to Rolling Stone Magazine,  a definitive and reputable resource since the 1960's regarding rock and roll overall.  It's changed,  hip hop and rap is quite noticeable now as well.  I copied and pasted the story here for you to read.

Bram Cohen

The computer whiz

You know him from BitTorrent,  the peer-to-peer program that Cohen introduced in 2002,  allows users to easily share large digital files such as movies and TV shows,  and since it's just a content-distribution tool,  it can't be shut down like Napster for piracy issues.  "Hollywood could use this technology to set up something like iTunes,  but they won't,"  says Cohen.  "They fear change."

The Breakthrough In March,

Cohen rolled out the new,  faster, easier-to-use BitTorrent 4.0.0,  which
already counts more than 30 million users.  "That is just a ridiculous
number,"  he concedes.

The Kindness Of Downloaders

Cohen,  29,  was programming computers at the age of five.  After bouncing around in the dot-com boom in the Nineties,  he set out on his own.  His current income comes from donations by legions of grateful users.


So for all you out there wondering about the above,  I am telling you
this:-) I've been using the internet since 1996 and I don't claim to be a whiz kid with making software at all.  I remember the story about a granddad and his grandkids who were sued by the Recording Industry Of America for each song they downloaded,  a whopping $1500. a piece.  I don't recall the outcome but I still find it outrageous.  Right now,  I am listening to U2 in San Diego,  March 30,  2005,  I used a torrent to download the show of which was recorded by an audience member.  Record label companies and or management frown on this but ultimately it is the artist(s) decision.  You might be familiar with the word "bootleg".  If you ever wanted to hear an act live for yourself,  you probably have a live release of some band out there,  released by the band officially on some minor/major label.  I used to do that and when a band does come out with a quality product that has what I want to hear in terms of quality and it is a band I enjoy,  I buy it.

The reality is,  some bands will and will not allow you or I to even take pictures and or record the show.  U2,  Bruce Springsteen and Phish and Dave Mathews were and still are known for such allowance.  Guns-N-Roses lead singer Axl Rose stopped a show and kicked someone out he saw taking pictures.  Some artists don't want their recordings released.  The legendary Bruce Springsteen "The Prodigal Son" studio recordings,  widely circulated as fan recordings took prominence when a record label tried to have them released commercially.  Springsteen stopped that and in my opinion,  it was fair and square of Springsteen to do so.  Some of you know about U2's "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" being leaked out to the internet.  I had a copy of the entire CD within minutes of the leak.  My opinion is someone knew I was  (for I frequent daily)  at the Springsteen Usenet group,,  a community available via Google "Groups" and your ISP if that company carries newsgroups.  I didn't go out and sell this,  nor have I sold any "bootlegs",  it is highly frowned upon.  Many a person has tried to sell via Ebay,  audience recordings and they are sometimes successful but anyone with respect for the band will try almost anything to
shut that seller down almost immediately upon learning of such an act.

Wondering if you could sneak a camera or recorder in nowadays?  In 1986 when the Canadian band Rush came to Providence,  Rhode Island,  U. S. A.,  I brought my 35 mm Pentax camera,  disassembled and in my pants at the waistline.  I was frisked at the sides and went through a metal detector,  I made it through too with the camera,  no alarms.  That was then.  Van Halen,  during the "III" tour at the Fleet Center of Boston, MA.  I walked in with my fanny pack open for a police officer to look into and he saw the tape deck and microphone I brought.  "He's allowed" he said to his peers.  Once inside the arena,  with microphone and deck out for anyone to see,  I sat there one seat from the aisle.  Some other persons were told to remove their cameras and I was pointed out.  They and I were told I was allowed.  Silly me,  I left the recorder in FM radio mode,  no tape exists.  It's not necessarily who you know,  even I didn't know the police men,  the arena staff and have yet to meet any band member face to face.  This is largely due to the internet.  As you were probably told,  anyone could be anyone,  don't give out your social security numbers,  credit card information to anyone and it is rightly so.  The nickname popularity is so huge,   I could be reading from my next door neighbor,  I'd never know it.  Kindness from myself,  from others,  these acts add up,  no one person can be certain as to how going to a show will turn out,  let alone being able to record.

The Hollywood executives to the artist(s),  they now and always will have a say as to who can do what,  followed or not.  I wouldn't be worrying about torrent now or for awhile.  Grokster,  a peer to peer system is not available as a website,  I got "page not found" today.  Grokster is embattled with a lawsuit to have the peer to peer system shut down and the general consensus is,  like those who used Kazaa and Napster,  pre-legality,  lawsuits will be everywhere to anyone,  at least here in the United States if Grokster is shut down.  Yes,  torrent software which is widely free,  does have I. P. information that can trace a ISP address but the reality here is as stated in Rolling Stone Magazine,  it is not a P2P  (peer to peer)  that shares music,  TV and DVD recordings,  it is content distribution.  I'm confident that Rolling Stone Magazine and Mr. Bram Cohen,  maker of BitTorrent did their homework before the story went to press.  I'm not worried,  nor should you be too.


William K. Mahler, Owner, World Media Host.