DreamHost and BitTorrent

I talk about BitTorrent quite a bit on this blog. I mention it frequently in my posts. I use ‘bittorrent’ as a Technorati tag. Many of the Google AdSense ads on this site contain the term. I even have BlogTorrent installed on this domain. And my host is DreamHost, which apparently does not allow me to do this. Who knew?

Cory at BoingBoing is reporting that Dreamhost’s official corporate policy on BitTorrent is every bit as stupid as that of 1and1, a competing hosting service. What’s a blogger to do? Well, if you’re me, blog about the stupidity of Dreamhost’s asinine position.

For me, the choice couldn’t be simpler: a torrent file is smaller to serve than a huge graphic or video file. From a cost savings standpoint, I’d much rather create a tiny text file (the torrent) and have folks hit the tracker every few minutes than have to serve up an 80GB Quicktime even once. It’s simple mathematics. I want to save money on my hosting and Dreamhost wants me to pay more.

Now at the moment, I’ve got a pretty sweet deal going here. They’re hosting 3 domains for me, with multiple subdomains, all for about $10 a month. The service has been outstanding, little or no downtime and excellent statistics/reporting. But I’m by no means a customer for life. As I continue exploring serving my podcast via torrent and as I get more popular (hopefully) I’ll make more content available via torrent. If DreamHost can’t abide this practice I will find a host that does.

Just my two cents. I hope you’re listening DreamHost. My email to your PR department is below.

I’m curious to know whether or not running a server such as BlogTorrent has actually become a problem for you, or if you’re just taking a pre-emptive strike against potential filesharers? For my part, I’ve only ever created/distributed one torrent – a home movie – but I’ll be doing more in the future.

You guys are great, but if I start dong my Podcast on a more regular basis, I don’t want to get hit with a bandwidth bill. Serving a .torrent makes more sense for me and I’m the customer.

Please, make this right so I don’t have to find another host.

Seth Miller
www.mostlymuppet.com

UPDATE: DreamHost’s official, speedy response is below.

Hello Seth,

The boingboing.net article you most likely saw misrepresented our stance
on BitTorrent. A few months back we had a big problem with people
running BitTorrent clients on our shared hosting servers and downloading
gobs of illegal content directly to our servers using our bandwidth.
That sort of behavior is obviously not something a company in our
position can allow. We provide server resources and bandwidth for people
to host their own websites and related services and running a BitTorrent
client like that is an abuse of the system.

Our current Terms of Service do completely forbid the use of any
BitTorrent software on our servers and that policy was put into place to
preserve our network while we consider the available options to provide
legitimate BitTorrent seeding and tracking services to our customers. We
recognize that it is a very useful tool for anyone that wants to
distribute large files. We are aware of how BitTorrent works and we use
it ourselves regularly. We would like to provide an easy way for users
in your situation to provide BitTorrent seeds of files and are
investigating that currently.

Having said all of this, it sounds like what you have been doing with
BlogTorrent is acceptable. Our policy on BitTorrent one is very general
and was intended as a stop-gap measure against a few people who were
abusing our good faith and server resources. As we do not currently
provide a BitTorrent service, distributing a large file like you have
done should be fine as long as it doesn’t consume an inordinate amount of
server resources. You are of course still bound by all applicable laws.

I hope that clears things up for you. Let us know if you have any other
questions.

So there you go. Everything is as clear as mud. The only real problem you’d run into using BitTorrent to distribute your files is if you run aground of some nebulous, overbroad, poorly-written, case-specific piece of pablum that DreamHost calls a BitTorrent policy. I’m safe, per the email, but who’s to say I’ll be safe tomorrow when I post my new Podcast or link to a home movie?

UPDATE II: I made BoingBoing! Thanks for posting about me, Cory!

UPDATE III: Upon some consideration, and after reading Cory’s addendum to the whole story, I have to admit that DreamHost is being pretty cool about this. I’d be happier if their TOS was changed to reflect the information in their email to me, but I’ll deal. Thanks, DreamHost.

11 thoughts on “DreamHost and BitTorrent

  1. Anonymouse says:

    I’m a DreamHost customer and I’m *still* not clear why they’re banning BitTorrent. I see a lot of “we just don’t think it’s a good idea” crap, but no hard reasons.

  2. Dreamhost shut down my bittorrent set-up before I even got a chance to use it. I have 3 personal videos that I made and was planning to distribute. I installed broadcast machine and was in the middle of uploading the torrents when dreamhost shut me down. Apparently, they have not changed their policy – they only made an exception for you due to the bad publicity. If this is not the case, then why shut me down? My torrents were not illegal and they certainly did not cause trouble using bandwidth or cpu time – they couldn’t have because I had not even posted the links online yet. yeah, I’m a little PO’D. I wrote them and told them that I knew they were letting you use it – so why couldn’t I? This was yesterday morn and I have not received an answer yet. Is it possible you could get me mentioned on boing boing so I can be treated reasonable too? Thanks.

  3. I don’t know if you are still reading these comments but what dreamhost just said to me blows my mind. Read for yourself. My email to dreamhost and their response follows:

    My email to dreamhost: Hi, First I need to say that overall I am quite pleased with
    Dreamhost. However, I would like some clarification of your bit
    torrent policy. I have a two part question. Are you allowing some
    dreamhost customers to use bit torrent? And if so, please tell me what
    I have to do to qualify.

    The reason I am asking this is because Dreamhost shut down my
    bittorrent. Yet, I read on several sites that dreamhost does allow bit
    torrent – if – it is legal and run on a good torrent program. Here is
    a sample of what I read.
    ————

    “UPDATE: DreamHost’s official, speedy response is below.

    Hello Seth,

    Snip (note: Your entire response was here.)

    I hope that clears things up for you. Let us know if you have any
    other
    questions.
    Source: Seth Miller http://www.mostlymuppet.com
    http://www.mostlymuppet.com/archives/2005/06/06/dreamhost-and-bittorrent/
    ——–
    Me again…I only want to torrent 3 files in two different formats. So
    that’s 6 files in all. These files are mine. I made them and they do
    not violate any copyrights. Please allow me to use bit torrent.

    Sincerely,
    Frank ********
    ———–
    Now below is the dreamhost response:

    e: Public Relations/Policy Clarification

    Hello,

    BitTorrent is strictly forbidden, both as a client and as a server
    right now. Although we are looking into it, it’s forbidden. I believe
    the misunderstanding, was that what you just pasted hinted at a policy of
    “If we don’t notice, go what you want.” Although some people can get
    away with that, it is still something that is not allowed.

    I hope that I have cleared up some of the misunderstanding, if you
    have any questions feel free to contact me so that I can answer them for
    you!

    Have yourself a great day!!!

    Thanks!
    Michael P

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