Posted on August 29, 2008
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |

You have to hand it Web 2.0’s digital socialists - they’re very quick on the uptake.

One of my favorite kool aid drinkers, Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins over at Mashable, earlier this week announced that he had discovered offshore hosting.

According to Hopkins, OpenTape, the open source answer to the RIAA’s smackdown of the popular Muxtape online “mixtape” service, could thrive if enough people get hip to the possibility of acquiring offshore hosting accounts out of the reach of the RIAA:

Here’s where I see OpenTape succeeding where so many others have failed: the ability to put the server offshore. I’ve actually had a chance to talk to some lawyers on this topic to see if it’d fly like I imagine it would, and I’m told I’m spot on.

What I see OpenTape potentially leading to is a boon for Web hosting companies who set up shop in countries with particularly laxy enforcement of copyright, and widespread installation of OpenTape and other similar services. Folks who want to set up a Muxtape clone would be the prime market here. Another potential market would be folks who buy a shared hosting plan to host a few OpenTape instances of their own without getting worried about owing thousands of dollars per infringing song.

I know it may come as a surprise to Hopkins, but I’ll let everyone in on a little secret - “offshore” hosting providers have been around for quite some time.

Realistically, you’re not going to see a mad dash to set up offshore hosting companies because - hold your breath - there are already plenty of them.

Unfortunately for Hopkins, offshore hosting isn’t going to be of much use to the average consumer looking to set up an installation of OpenTape to distribute pirated music.

The first problem faced by consumers looking for hosting in “countries with particularly laxy [sic] enforcement of copyright” is that there actually aren’t a whole lot of them where reliable and cost-efficient hosts willing to look the other way are plentiful and/or easily located.

From and the Carribbean to Romania and China, the vast majority of reputable hosting companies have policies similar in nature to their American counterparts.

This is not necessarily only to avoid whatever legal liabilities may or may not exist - it’s because it simply makes good business sense. Turning a blind eye to illegal activities (such as copyright infringement) often attracts the wrong types of customers, including hackers and those who will post content that attracts hackers.

Throw in excessive resource consumption and bandwidth usage (that’s right, bandwidth is still relatively expensive in many places) and Hopkins just might eventually figure out that running a hosting company that’s designed to facilitate copyright infringement for customers looking to pay less than $100/month is not a compelling business.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of offshore companies you’d trust enough to send money to (while at the same time providing your credit card details to) actually have standards.

That’s right, Rizzn. Just because a company is “offshore” doesn’t mean it’s run by dishonest people willing to break the law for Americans with their fiat dollars.

Of course, there are people everywhere in the world willing to bend the rules. And guess what? They usually get paid very well for bending them.

If you want “bulletproof” offshore hosting, it isn’t going to be cheap and it isn’t going to be as easy to find as you might think it is. A lot of people claim to provide “bulletproof” offshore hosting, but don’t be surprised when your server goes offline and your contact “disappears” (with your money, of course).

Hopkins might even want to consider that the rise of botnets to engage in activities such as spam is directly related to the fact that engaging in any illegal activity using centralized servers becomes a cat and mouse game that is more a headache than anything else.

And as for the “lawyers” Hopkins supposedly spoke to, any attorney in the United States who didn’t graduate in the bottom 2% of his or her class at a third-tier law school would advise you that setting up a hosting account offshore for the sole purpose of posting infringing materials is not wise. Posting content to an offshore server from a location where copyright protections exist (either by domestic law or international treaty) does not protect you from personal liability. If your identity is discovered, entities like the RIAA will have recourse.

Finally, for digital socialists considering following Hopkins into my “datacenter” in downtown Tijuana, it’s worth considering the story of The Pirate Bay and the people involved with it. Lots of hassle for frankly, very little reward.

At the day, I can’t help but asking - isn’t paying for your music and enjoying it enough?

Is it really worth getting your panties in a knot over the RIAA? What do you really hope to accomplish? Aren’t there more productive and fulfilling things to do?

Fly a kite, climb a mountain, get laid. Life is far too short to waste time trying to “stick it to the man.”

For Americans looking to go “offshore,” a piña colada, white sands and blue ocean are a far better excuse than an open-source mixtape application.

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3 Responses to “Brilliant Blogger Solution to the RIAA: Host Offshore”

  1. Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins on August 29th, 2008 1:36 am

    I didn’t say I discovered it. I suggested it.

    I’ve run several radio stations in the past that have resided outside US boundaries purely for music licensing reasons, but that was years ago. The recent consultation with a lawyer was to see what, if any, laws or methods of enforcement had changed since 2002.

  2. Brice on August 30th, 2008 1:12 pm

    The Pirate Bay is not a legitimate comparison. They host no copyrighted materials.

    To be honest, anyone hosting copyrighted content without permission is an idiot. A MuxTape running over streaming bittorrent where users host the content is the only viable solution (good luck, ha).

  3. dean on September 8th, 2008 8:07 am

    “Aren’t there more productive and fulfilling things to do?”

    –That’s a bit weak, you can apply it to practically anything, apart from removing landmines from playing fields.

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