PirateBox: A DIY File-Sharing Network in a Lunchbox

image from wiki.daviddarts.com 2011 is going to be a sad year if music pirates, academics, and hackers are able to create more things to get people excited about music than a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Fans have The Music Bay to look forward to in April and today they have PirateBox, an offline file-sharing network.

David Darts, a professor from NYU Steinhardt, has created a wireless network that users can connect to and anonymously share digital files with. PirateBox doesn't connect to the Internet. Users simply launch their web browser and start uploading or downloading files. This network can be built for $100, and Darts has even shared the instructions online for anyone to use. All it would take is four ambitious college friends to pool together $25 a piece and overnight their dorm has its own anonymous, offline file-sharing network. Already, curious people are writing in and asking Darts if he'd be willing to build these and put them on sale.

In the FAQ, Dart answers this question. Does the PirateBox promote stealing?

"NoThe PirateBox is designed to facilitate sharing which, by definition, is the opposite of stealing.

The misleading connection between stealing and sharing has been promulgated by old media interests and their well funded lobby groups who claim that sharing and remixing copyrighted materials hurts artists. 

However, the history of Copyright reveals that Copyright was never really about paying artists for their work but was instead designed by and for publishers.

This business model may have made sense when the costs of production and distribution were very high. With the advent of digital technology and the Internet, however, these costs have plummeted and this business model has increasingly become obsolete. 

Today it is not productive to restrict sharing in order to pay for centralized production and distribution.

Prohibiting people from freely sharing and remixing information and culture serves no one's interests but the publishers'."

Coming to a hard-drive near you: Offline file-trading is killing music. 

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  1. excellent, thanks for teaching me how to do this and promoting this great new product…way to go Kyle

  2. The emerging devices and trends in offline file-sharing networks are an important aspect of music piracy to consider. It’s news to report. Being a bit of a tech-geek, I found this to be interesting. At a time when the record industry is attempting to censor Google and pressure ISPs into policing their users, people are establishing their own networks off the grid. This is a fascinating development and a great reminder that almost nothing — taking control of the web included — stops piracy.

  3. The part that kills me: “Already, curious people are writing in and asking Darts if he’d be willing to build these and put them on sale.”
    It still seems so disingenuous for someone to say that IP should be free only to turn around and profit from a device that exists solely to “share” that IP (if he decides to do so). This would be like terrestrial radio – which makes a handsome profit but wouldn’t exist without music – arguing that they shouldn’t compensate artists.
    And for Darts to argue that it’s okay to “share” because copyright was primarily designed to compensate publishers for manufacture and distribution – hogwash. Sure, it was to compensate for these things but he conveniently leaves out that the creators also were paid. After all, the things being published would not exist if the songs/novels were not written in the first place.
    It is not as though artists have always worked for free. Many writers may have been “for hire” but they were paid regular salaries; those that weren’t were either paid royalties or (at least in an a case I worked on for a famous song written in 1929) they were given copies of the songbooks that they could then sell at a profit.
    I’m glad you wrote about this Kyle, and the core concept could be cool for small groups of friends. However, anytime somebody like this comes up with BS justifications for ripping off artists, I get pretty fired up.

  4. I agree that his history of copyright is a bit skewed, but I think he’s right about current copyright law choking off culture. Ever since we we’re able to divorce the content from the physical medium, copyright (in it’s current form) hasn’t made much sense.

  5. LAN party on steroids! 🙂
    The rather cool “Pirate Box” is just another demonstration that the personal computer and the Internet Protocols (not just “The Internet,” the big thing that most people connect to most of the time) are a big toolkit to enable the copying and distribution of files.
    The Pirate Box will be dynamite in college dormitory settings. The next step will come when people hack the wireless networking tools to boost the power for greater geographic coverage. But that will take a bit more skill, because electronics is harder than computers.

  6. Interesting read. I just decided the other day to start sharing my music again through bitorrents. Ten years ago I was using Soulseek and other p2p networks to share my music and reached lots of people that ultimately came to purchase my music. It’s unfortunate that as soon as the idea of ‘sharing’ is introduced the automatic response is that they’re gonna use it to share ‘stolen’ music.
    Contrary to what most have been led to believe everyone isn’t a pirate and many have found success while sharing music that they’ve created with interested parties online.
    In this age of ‘free’ independent artists still benefit from the dissemination of materials through shared networks and on/offline communities. Of course there’s piracy but the fact that people do legally share needs to be acknowledged as well.

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