Sunday, 3 April 2011

Cancel Cable by Chris Fehily

Lowdown: A practical guide to Internet piracy through bit torrent.
Review:
The first thing that has to be said on behalf of Cancel Cable is to praise the idea of publishing a book that praises, advocates and tells you in great detail how to commit piracy via the Internet while asking you for your money so you could buy the book. For the record, I did not pirate the book (I wouldn't know how to do it in the first place prior to reading the book, would I?); I thought this one's is a cause worth pursuing and put my money's worth to get the Kindle version. For another record, do not blame author Fehily either: he's firmly advocating the piracy of his own book.
So what is the book about? It's an introduction to Internet piracy, setting the scene by telling you what's going on in that arena as far as legal and social aspects are concerned. Then it goes on to tell you how the Internet is used for piracy, and it moves on to provide detailed explanations - at the very practical/mechanical level - on how to commit your own Internet piracy.
The value of the book is obvious to anyone not bothering to put their head in the sand. Virtually everyone I know (with the exclusion of a few idealistic souls) is interested in committing Internet piracy, yet those of us less technology inclined are often scared of it as if the matter is so complex the process involves selling one's soul to the devil. I, on the other hand, hold the view that in many if not most cases you actually contribute to the betterment of society by committing Internet piracy, by virtue of your act working against the establishment to force them to change their business models to more user friendly ones. If they get their act together there is nothing preventing them from making more money than they currently do; instead they choose to close the door on society as it marches on.
The book does falter in several areas worth mentioning. For a start, most of it is not an intriguing read unless you're really excited by instructions such as "click here" and "click there". I find such instructions more suitable to an interactive web facility than a book, even if from time to time they include a point worth remembering.
My main grip with Cancel Cable is to do with the way it trivializes piracy. It does so first by not even considering that piracy may be unjust, not just illegal. The point is worth discussing in depth, which the book doesn't do: as much as I hate copyrights, I think that if copyrights were to be abandoned tomorrow then some of my favorite authors would have a hard time making a living for themselves. Sure, they should be able to find alternative way to make money through their talent, but as it is they are not ready; I am not sure I'm ready for the impact of them not writing anymore either. Besides, what is wrong with paying someone for their effort in the first place?
The second trivialization committed by Cancel Cable is with the way it dismisses the dangers of piracy. It settles the matter by stating the chances of ever being picked upon are low, so go ahead and do it. I disagree with this approach, and I'm sure the guy mentioned here would, too: first of all, there is considerable effort made in many countries to subdue piracy by making an example of a few pirates; none of us would like to be in that select group. Second, there are [probably] some easy ways to reduce the danger of being picked upon, ways that are absent from the book. Third, it is very easy to identify the IP address of those taking part in bit torrenting activities, and between that and having your name the distance may not be too far. And fourth, a book advocating piracy should care of its community and advise people on the up to date status of piracy in various countries. That last point is made very obvious when it is very clear the book is very much up to date on many other matters (no doubt an advantage for electronic/independent publishing).
Overall: Not the most interesting reading in the world but praise has to be said for it being there in the first place. Only 3 out of 5 stars, but if you're technology averse and want to enjoy the fruits of piracy you should find this book has great appeal.

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