Understanding ‘Internet Piracy’ concepts via Our Own Tamil Cinema..

One of the feedbacks that I had recently got from a respected individual is that , he had given me was that the blog was too technical and difficult to grasp from a common man’s view point. I agree. I had planned that the English version be a little more technical, but the Tamil translation to be a diluted version and talking in even more layman terms. So, keeping this in mind, i have decided to do a simple illustration to explain a concept, which i have spoken in another Video. I am trying to explain, How Decentralisation of the Internet largely benefits Piracy. I have also added the ‘Ramana’ Footage for Reference.

 

Ramana_Centralised

 

So, as the Yugi Character mentions, you can see in the Image that probably Kumaresan and Zakir Hussain probably don’t know each other, yet there is a centralized node that connects both of them, without themselves knowing each other. The centralized Node ( Professor Ramana) instructs them and is clearly hierrarchially much higher than the others. So, a collapse of the Central Node, will destroy the system, so, by tracking the smaller nodes and mapping them together, eventually, Professor Ramana comes out and reveals himself and with that the ACF network collapses, which is what the conclusion of the movie, also is.

Unfortunately, the Movie industry may have wished that Piracy and Internet Piracy in particular worked in this fashion. Sadly, it is not. It works in an entirely de-centralized fashion, something like this.

Ramana_Decentralised

 

You can see in this kind of network architecture, again Possibly, Kumaresan and Zakir Hussain do not know each other. They may not even know Professor Ramana, because, each node can independently operate on its own, yet seek support from its nearest node. Typically beyond one or two levels, communication is not accessible for a single node.  The advantage of this system in the context of Piracy, is that there is no single Professor Ramana here. Even Zakir Hussain and Kumaresan themselves have the power of Professor Ramana. Zakir Hussain, Kumaresan, Ramana and everyone in the network may be doing more or less the same kind of work. So, at some level, they act as competitors, yet they also share knowledge and common resources, which are distributed, so that, there is no single point of failure.

The typical pattern that we see is by the time, Law and Enforcement catches up with one or two nodes, hundreds of new nodes are created else where. More over, a single node may himself not know beyond one or two nodes himself, so, this complicates the situation, even more.

 

 

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Four Basic Attributes of the Internet, that Piracy uses to its advantage..

The Internet was built on some basic principles, but as the Internet has grown widely into an alternate economic space rather than sheer exchange of 1s and 0s, some of these principles have come under threat, non necessarily always with evil intentions, but sometimes, since it has placed the economic survivability of some players. This aspect of the discussion is typically called as ‘Net Neutrality’, but its discussion is beyond the scope of this blog. For now, let us focus on some basic attributes that the Internet offers that Piracy is attempting to use to its advantage.

  1. Decentralisation – The Internet in its original form was always de-centralised. De-centralisation is a process where several people contribute towards a common work, and there typically is no differentiation between the contributors unlike a Traditional Top-Down Centralized Corporate Environment. We can learn some lessons about Internet Piracy and its complexity by looking at some of our own movies. For instance, how did Professor Ramana get caught eventually? Because, he ran a centralized network.                                                                                                                                              

  2. Open Source and Free Sharing Principles – It was Open Source principles that run a substantial portion of the Internet. Engines like Wikipedia and Mozilla FireFox are built entirely based on these principles. The Philosophy of Open Source is that anyone can take an existing work, build upon the work and offer the adapted work for free ( can commercialize the work sometimes). But, sometimes, this Principle does get abused in the case of Piracy, where allegedly Pirated Code of a website or Technology developed using Open Source Software is thrown openly on the Internet, to be adapted by several other Allegely Pirating websites. Although, technically, they are competitors, sometimes, they can also allegedly be ‘Partners in Crime’ as well.
  3. The Internet is like a Road Network – If the main highway connecting two cities is blocked due to a Traffic jam, people are diverted through alternate routes. But, by design of the Internet itself, a single chunk of information can be split up and travel through various routes, before the entire file is assembled at the receiving end. For better understanding, see the Animated GIF File here.
  4. No One owns anything in the Internet – The Internet belongs to no body. Virtually, every aspect of the Internet is given only a temporary usage rights or a common resource is shared across several people. An owner of a Website does not permanently own the URL of the website, He has to pay a fee for periodically renewing the website. There can be several people accessing a common IP address via a Public Wifi Hotspot, or Internally within a Home Wifi. There can be millions of users who use the same shared  hosting space etc.
    All of these principles are incorporated at various levels, to help Piracy continue the ‘Cat and Mouse’ game that has gone on for several years, and that is the reason, why the Internet Piracy menace has still continued to linger. Beyond just a question of a ‘Demand and Supply’ market, Piracy has used underlying principles and masked itself which makes things that much more difficult for law enforcement to catch up with it.

How RSS, API and a Free Sharing Culture are driving a vibrant Internet Economy?

For long, Pirates who have supported Copyright Infringment have claimed that Information can no longer be monopolized and monetized through Obsolete Copyright and Patent laws in this digital age, but rather, sharing of information only freely only drives the economy further and is beneficial to everybody through cultural exchange. The copyright Industry may not agree to this theory, but right in front of our eyes, we are living and breathing what the pirates claim. The copyright Industry still continues to live in a closed world, refusing to open out and see reality.

RSS_API_OpenEcosystem

Image credits – All individual company logos were downloaded from the Internet using Google Search. The Face icon and the RSS Clipart were downloaded from clipart.org

Publishing Tools like Twitter and Blogs are easily accessible to anyone and with the Internet itself acting as the main distribution medium, the Internet has made possible for anybody to become a Content Publisher and for Consumers to find their Producers, without any hassles. Using RSS feeds, users can automatically subscribe to hundreds of thousands of such websites, and automatically get updates when each of them individually adds or updates content.

This short personal example demonstrates not only the benefits of free sharing, but also the pitfalls of a centralized monopolized system. Last year, when Google announced that it was killing the Google Reader, it killed not just an application but thousands of services built around the Google Reader API. If Google Reader was the only service, then the entire ecosystem would have collapsed. Thankfully, there is so much decentralization in the Internet, that such a thing would never happen.

Services like Feedly and Flipboard and a few smaller services stepped up to replace the Google Reader. In hindsight it may have been a blessing in disguise for small services like Feedly, which may never have been able to compete with giants like Google Reader. Feedly subsequently developed its own cloud infrastructure and now uses Google’s API for authentication.

So, in the small example shown above. When ever, I find an interesting article on the Internet, I add it to the Feedly Cloud, using a small Web Browser Add-On. From there, I have linked my Reeder 2 Ipad App to Feedly, which downloads my daily feeds offline on my Ipad. From this App, I transfer which ever, I feel necessary for permanent storage into my Evernote Account. As an individual that suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, I use the Voice Dream Reader to import specific notes from Evernote locally into the Voice Dream Reader app which reads out the content for me, automatically, using its inbuilt advanced ‘Text To Speech‘ engine.

There are 2 important aspects here, in this example. It is thanks to RSS, that website feeds can be easily tracked and automated. The Second is a contemporary phenomenon, that is driving tremendous growth across multiple services – Opening out of their individual API’s that can be used as integration with other services. The phenomenon has become so successful that this has led to the evolution of specialist services that link multiple services through API’s like IFTTT ( If This then That.)

The opening out of API represents a modern outlook, which does not fit with what the obsolescent views of the Copyright Industry. From a copyright Industry’s perspective, they wish to block any accesses of information leakage, which they think might reduce their profits. This view of thought positions the producer’s interest first, and the consumer’s next. Modern Internet services think in the opposite direction. By opening out their API, they give other services an opportunity to provide a possible better user experience than their own.This represents the ‘User First, Producer Next’ approach.

For instance, only by connecting the Reeder App to the Feedly Cloud, you can download the articles from the Feedly Cloud into the Reeder App and use it. Since Feedly had its own App, the simplest thing it could have done was close out its API, and force users to read from its own App. This may have yielded short term results, but long term consequences, because if the rest of the ecosystem collapsed, it would take down Feedly along with it. Another prime example of this concept is Evernote. Evernote already has its app for multiple platforms. Yet, it allows other apps to build their own Evernote clients, which could possibly even replace the stock Evernote client, if the user felt that it provided them with a better experience.

This API culture also forces services to remain innovative constantly and compete with their competitors ( although they have symbiotic relationships through their API), rather than fall into a world of complacency and stagnate, thereby providing no value to the end user in the long run, which is something many modern day Pirates accuse the Copyright Industry of doing so.

One can see from the above small example that the same information has flowed through the various pipes, before it reached the hands of the user, only because of the mentality to allow sharing of Information, through API integration. In this process, it has benefitted each entity. The information created by the creators is as much protected by Copyright and Patent Law, as the ones created by big production and media houses. Yet, unlike the former (in most cases), by allowing this information to flow freely, it is creating sustainability for several services that work through this small ecosystem of Information exchange, benefitting the creator, the Intermediaries and the end user, thereby driving Competition, Innovation and the entire Digital Ecosystem forward.

Welcome BitTorrent Sync. Itunes – Good Riddance.

POST UPDATED ON 13-12-2015

Most users who have had the luxury of using any of Apple’s hardware products would definitely recommend it over other Operating Systems. I would make this inference based on a personal experience having used a series of other Tech products across various other Operating Systems and having used just one Ipad Mini – My only Apple device to date. Most users who have had the luxury of using any of Apple’s hardware products would definitely recommend it.

The answer is simple. No matter how complex the ecosystem is, Apple products provide a user experience that few can match. I got my HTC One V, a littler over two years ago. Following the Android Phone, i purchased my first Apple product, an Ipad mini 6 months later.
Barring the huge deviation in cost, what makes Apple products so loved, inspite of several restrictions being placed on its usage both for the developer and the end user, when compared to its other contemporaries?

My guess would probably be this – No matter how complex the ecosystem is, Apple products provide a user experience that few can match. I guess that it probably has to do with Apple being involved with nearly all aspects of Product building – The Hardware design, Software Builds and OS Management. Top to Down in any Apple product, only Apple is involved. More over, the focus on few form factors of each product makes standardization a lot more easier for the developers, so, it may make a lot of integration and compatibility issues a lot more easier could be one more reason.

I got my HTC One V, a littler over two years ago. Six months later, I had an Ipad Mini in my hand. In these 27 months, I have had trouble several times with my Android Phone. Understandably, my Phone has become obsolete long ago, and just the installation or updation of a few Apps can slow down my Phone very much. It also must be mentioned that I do not side load Apps in Android and have always download from the Official Play Store for Android. In these 27 months, I have had trouble several times with my Android Phone. Understandably, my phone has become obsolete long ago, and just the installation of a few apps can slow down my phone very much. Not to mention that although, I do not side load apps in Android and almost always download from the Official Play Store for Android, my phone has become victim of crazy attacks which are most likely due to some Virus/Malware finding its way.

In spite of this, my phone has been a victim of several crazy attacks which are most likely due to some Virus/Malware finding its way. Not to mention the crapware that was PreBundled in the Phone and hogs up so much Storage space and RAM on the phone, and is virtually unremovable. The Ipad Mini on the other hand has been virtually seamless.
But like many out there, I had to literally battle it out with the iconic ‘ITunes Application’. For someone who is used to seamlessly, pushing a mobile device into a USB port and transferring data, I was not ready for ITunes. Much as i read many videos over the Internet and tried my own hands at it, several times, I never understood how ‘ITunes’ was supposed to work. Sometimes, it worked by a Fluke, but i was never able to understand how it did and replicate the procedure. The experience was a real nightmare, in short.

The Ipad Mini on the other hand has been seamless. There is no slow down of the Tablet despite me loading a lot of apps and this may eventually boil down to the seamless tie down of hardware-software Integration that can only be possible with a company that does both. But like many out there, I had to literally battle it out with Itunes. For someone who is used to seamlessly, pushing a mobile device into a USB port and transferring data, I was not ready for Itunes.
BTSync
Eventually, I came across BitTorrent Sync. BitTorrent Sync is a decentralized Peer2Peer based ‘Skip the Cloud’ syncing software Application that supports a multitude of Desktop and Mobile platforms. The syncing is super fast as there is no centralized cloud server like Dropbox or Google Drive. It is without doubt much more secure and most importantly, there are no limits on how much data can be transferred. The process is also relatively seamless. Best of all, it makes use of the Speed of the Local WiFi network, so speeds are blazingly super fast, unlike the traditional Apps which are limited by the speed of the Internet connection.
Through BTSync, I have now discovered a seamless way of transferring files ‘to’ and ‘fro’ my Windows Desktop to the Ipad Mini. Once the Initial configuration is done, and both devices are connected to my Wireless LAN, the BTSync App takes care of syncing data across both the platforms, thus now enabling me to seamless import and export data out of IOS.
Most importantly, it is free.