Archives

You are currently viewing archive for July 2007
07/31 2007 | 12:00 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Germany's entertainment industry hit a roadblock in their legal battle against P2P downloads late last week when a local court decided that there is no legal basis for criminal cases against file sharing users. The Offenburg-based court decided that prosecutors cannot order a ISP to give them the real name of a P2P user simply because that user shared a few MP3s without the permission of rights holders, heise.de reports.

Germany has been on the forefront of P2P lawsuits. The German music industry sued more than 20.000 file sharing users by the end of 2006 and pledged to sue an additional 1000 users per month this year.

These lawsuits are already a little more complicated than in the US: Rights holders cannot bring civil cases against unknown defendants in Germany, which is why they initiate criminal cases against each user suspected of copyright infringement first. Prosecutors reveal the identity of the users during these criminal cases, which the industry then uses to slap them with an additional civil suit.

Prosecutors have been increasingly unwilling to do the dirty work for the music industry though. A local State Attorney General revealed late last year that these lawsuits cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and local authorities have started to drop lawsuits by the dozen in order to free capacity for more serious cases.

The Oldenburg ruling marks the first time a court echoes these sentiments, undermining the arguments of the music industry on multiple fronts. The court's decision questioned the actual damages of P2P downloads to record labels, arguing that people would download songs for free that they would probably never buy.

It also argued that the industry cannot prove intent in light of P2P software that tricks or forces people into redistributing their downloads. Finally, it raised questions about the double lawsuit strategy of the industry, stating that this might be a ploy to get access to data that it wasn't supposed to get in the first place.

The ruling doesn't automatically amount to precedence in other P2P lawsuits, but heise.de is reporting that other German courts might soon issue similar rulings, which in turn could bring the lawsuit campaign of the German music industry to a standstill.

07/28 2007 | 03:04 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
You know it’s summer when everyone in Washington is suddenly talking about P2P. College students who otherwise might protest bad legislation are busy getting stoned in Europe. High temperatures drive lobbyists into pit bull-like attack mode. And, face it, it’s summer, which means there is nothing else going on in the world. Oh, wait, there is, but that’s another story.

P2P companies and their users faced a triple legislative onslaught this week. Anti-P2P legislation almost made its way into an education bill, a law that would raise penalties for copyright infringement got introduced in the House, and a House panel accused LimeWire chairman Mark Gorton of aiding America’s enemies, one shared folder at a time. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/26 2007 | 12:52 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Speaking of Pownce: I have a couple of invites to give away. Six, to be precise. Send me a message if you want one - and feel free to let me know what kind of stories you enjoy most on P2P Blog ...

07/25 2007 | 12:02 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Limewire chairman Mark Gorton had a bad day on Tuesday. Gorton appeared in front of the Committee for Oversight and Government Reform to talk about P2P safety and leaks of classified information on file sharing networks. CNet reports that he "was assailed for allegedly harming national security". From the CNet article:

"The most scathing criticism came from Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who launched into a lengthy monologue in which he deemed Gorton 'one of the most naive chairmen and CEOs I've ever run across. (...) Mr. Gorton, you seem to lack imagination about how your product can be deliberately misused by evildoers against this country.'"

Oups. That hurts. Gorton promised to do a better job about educating users and designing Limewire to avoid unwanted sharing of sensitive information.

His prepared statement also offers an interesting twist on the old fingerpointing game. Gorton told the Committee that ISPs should be forced to take a tougher stance against sharing of unlicensed content. From his statement:

"Internet Service Providers, ISP’s, are a unique point of control for every computer on the Internet. Universities frequently function as their own ISP’s, and a handful of universities have implemented notice based warning systems that result in the disconnection of users engaged in illegal behavior who ignore multiple warnings. These universities have sharply reduced child pornography and copyright infringement on their campus networks. Similar policies could be mandated for all ISP’s in the United States. "

Gorton goes on by saying that the US Congress should pass laws to force ISPs to enforce copyright. This sounds like a dangerous idea to suggest - especially in times where politicians and lobbyists are pushing for government-mandated P2P filters on the ISP level. Granted, Gorton only wants ISPs to cut off repeat offenders. Investigating those offenses would likely still be done by rights holders. But he might just end up getting more than he can swallow.

07/24 2007 | 11:59 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Mobile P2P has been the subject of much speculation over the years. People were supposed to swap video clips straight from phone to phone, surrounding themselves with mobile sharing clouds and downloading movies and TV shows on the go with the speed of BitTorrent.uTorrent mUI

Not a whole lot of that has ever materialized. Take the iPhone for example. Sure, you can watch movies on the device, but you can’t swap them, thanks to Apple’s ban of third-party apps.

But the fact that you can’t install any code on the iPhone doesn’t stop true P2P aficionados . A web app to be unveiled tomorrow will allow users to turn their iPhone — or any mobile phone with a browser for that matter — into a remote control for the popular Windows BitTorrent client µTorrent. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/24 2007 | 12:02 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I've been playing a little bit with Pownce.com today. I must say I somewhat share the sentiment of many bloggers that Pownce isn't all that original compared to other microblogging /messaging platforms, but I do like the file sharing function.

Pownce users can send their contacts files with a size of up to ten Megabytes. There doesn't seem to be any file type filter in place - I could send MP3s, photos, HTML documents and even Windows executables.

pownce

There aren't any options to view photos online, but MP3s can be played back right in the browser through a simple flash player. Playback unfortunately is interrupted when the page is reloaded for new messages. A pop-up player or better use of Ajax should solve this problem.

One interesting aspect of the file sharing function is that you can send files to individual users, all of your friends or selected groups that you can configure for that purpose. Let's say you have a couple of friends who are into the same kind of music. Just combine them to a group - Pownce calls them "sets" - and send your files to that specific group.

pownce

Another interesting feature is the forwarding option that makes it possible to send forward any received file to any number of friends. Sure, you could do the same thing with your email client, but Pownce makes it possible to spread the love without multiple up- or downloads since all the files are stored on their servers.

So what about the legal side? Pownce does explicitly forbid copyright violations in their terms of service:

"User agrees not to use the Services (...) to contribute or send any Content that is infringing, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, offensive or otherwise violates any law or right of any third party."

It is unclear however what kind of content is infringing. Fair use rights allow you to make individual copies of your CDs or MP3s for friends - and that's exactly what you are doing when you are using Pownce. Granted, one might argue that sending MP3s to groups of 50 or 60 people is beyond the scope of Fair Use, but violations like that would be hard to police. It's not possible to make files available to the general public on Pownce, which makes it tough for rights holders to seek out offenders.

There is no obvious need for Pownce to limit file transfers either. The company outsourced all their file storage to Amazon's S3 service, so the Pownce web server won't go down just because you send too many files to your friends.

Pownce instead seems to be willing to capitalize on file sharing users. Paying subscribers get the chance to transfer files of up to 100 Megabytes. We'll have to see whether that's enough of an incentive to make lots of users sign up for the premium membership.

07/23 2007 | 12:02 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Mistakengoal.com just published a really interesting article about a recent amendment to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act. Democratic Senator and senate majority leader Harry Reid introduced an amendment to the bill that deals with "campus-based digital theft prevention." The amendment would essentially keep track of the state of copyright infringement at every university that receives federal funds and force the schools with the worst track records to take proactive measures against infringement.

Reid specifically wants to single out 25 universities that receive the highest amount of DMCA takedown notices - something that is strikingly similar to a list the RIAA published earlier this year. Those 25 schools would then have to teach copyright to their students, report back to the federal government about the success of these lessons and tweak their anti-piracy message if it isn't successful enough.

But wait, that's not all. Schools would also have to tamper with their students' net access. From the proposed amendment:

"Each eligible institution (...) shall (...) provide evidence to the Secretary that the institution has developed a plan for implementing a technology-based deterrent to prevent the illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property."

Companies like Safemedia and entertainment industry lobbyists have been making their rounds in Washington lately to get P2P filtering on campus mandated by law. Looks like these effords are starting to pay off.

But what do people working in higher education actually think about this idea? Mistakengoal.com doesn't like it at all:

"It is clear to me, that we, not our congresspeople or the Secretary of Education, are in the best position to judge and implement what works best for our campus and our students. That may include technological devices or it may not and they should not be mandated. Please contact your senators. Let’s not let the RIAA, MPAA, and others micromanage our campuses."


Update: Looks like Harry Reid has withdrawn the amendment.

07/22 2007 | 04:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
P2P is where it’s at for online video these days. Not a week goes by without an announcement of a new P2P platform or distribution deal. It’s easy to see why folks are excited about this: distributed data delivery can save you a lot of money, plus it’s technology that millions of people already use to get their Harry Potter.

Independent content producers are unfortunately still left in the dark when it comes to many of the new, Hollywood-approved P2P platforms. Case in point: There’s no upload button in Joost. There are, however, quite a few services out there that help you to distribute your content without contract negotiations and DRM schemes. Here are ten sites to get you started (...) Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/19 2007 | 06:01 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Slyck is featuring an interview some some unnamed Limewire staffers today, and even though some questions are left unanswered because of the lawsuit, it does reveal some surprises.

Did you for instance know that Limewire started a music blog? I didn't, and the official Limewire blog hasn't mentioned it yet either. Guess the video blog will be launched any day now?

The rest of the interview is a good read as well, touching subjects from the upcoming Limewire online music store to the future of the Limewire application. Here's a quick teaser:

"At the core, LimeWire isn't a Gnutella software project, it's a peer-to-peer software project. Including support for BitTorrent is the next logical step in LimeWire's evolution forward."

07/18 2007 | 04:44 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Slyck, P2PNet and Torrentfreak are reporting today about a European legal case that could have implications on the way file sharers are treated on the continent. From Slyck:

"European file-sharers - or at least those residing in the European Union - are on the cusp of a major victory against the powers that be. Advocate General Juliane Kokott has submitted her option to the European Court of Justice that Spanish copyright traffic cop Promusicae is not entitled to the identities of alleged P2P pirates. (...) Organizations such as Promusicae could find their ability to pursue alleged file-sharers severely hampered, considering that a majority of these cases fall under civil jurisdiction."

This isn't entirely correct. Copyright infringement can be pursued as a criminal as well as a civil matter in most European countries, just like it is the case in the US. Copyright holders prefer civil litigation simply because those cases can be settled outside of the court - and most people tend to settle for a few thousand bucks rather than fight.

Rights holders have been looking for ways to expedite these civil cases since they started suing P2P users. Specifically, they'd like to be able to give a list of IP addresses to an ISP and demand names and addresses in return, which is exactly what the music industry tried to make the Spanish ISP Telefonica do in this case.

Telefonica refused, and the case ended up in court, where it went all the way to the Court of Justice of the European Communities. The Advocate General of this court now sided with Telefonica.

Most of the European file sharing cases aren't fought this way though. The German music industry for instance has initiated more than 20.000 criminal cases against alleged copyright infringers. Record labels use these criminal cases as a tool to get the identity of the alleged file sharers and then additionally slap them with a civil case.

The future doesn't look so good for European file sharers either: The EU council is working on a new copyright directive that would treat file sharers like commercial bootleggers.

07/17 2007 | 11:09 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Democracy Player relaunched today under the new name Miro, complete with a new version, a new website and a restructured channel guide. My first impression: Looks very promising.

Some people have complained that Miro is too generic of a name, but I still think that it might just be a Wii moment for the Participatory Culture Foundation. Nintendo Revolution had a much fancier and bolder ring to it, but the dorky Wii moniker was what finally helped the console to succeed ...

miro screenshot

Also check out this article I previously wrote for Newteevee about Miro / Democracy if you want to learn more about the player and the team behind it.

07/16 2007 | 01:44 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Torrentfreak recently featured a piece about the possibility to run Bittorrent on your iPhone. From the article:

"The technical specifications of the device certainly make it possible. It has more than enough cpu power for it, assuming a nice, tightly coded client was written. The built in WiFi (802.11b/g) and use of the EDGE 2.75G wireless network data transfer system allows a fairly widespread availability of reception."

iphone bittorrent

Hold on, not so fast. Sure, the hardware may be suitable for Bittorrent, but Apple's locked down iPhone OS makes it hard to imagine that anything like this will be available in the near future.

The iPhone doesn't allow the installation of any third party applications. In fact it doesn't even allow any plain old http downloads, meaning that you can't download MP3s, or Torrent files, for that matter. Bittorrent friends might be out of luck even if hackers were able to bypass both of these restrictions: Apple could always lock down the device with the next system update.

Still, there is a trick to use your iPhone for Bittorrent downloads. More and more Bittorrent clients offer their users web interfaces to control their downloads from a second computer. Just install µTorrent or Azureus on your home PC, access it through a web browser from your office machine and you're able to start and stop Torrent downloads remotely. There is no reason that this wouldn't work with an iPhone. There are some obstacles though:

µTorrent has been a favourite with the Windows PC crowd for years now. The client is very lean and ressource-friendly, and it features a beautiful web UI that resembles the application's original interface. However, this web UI doesn't work with Safari - and since the iPhone uses Safari / Webkit as it's browser, µTorrent users are out of luck.

Azureus can be extended through various plug-ins, some of which offer remote control capabilities through a web interface. More advanced users tend to like the Swing Web Interface, since it emulates the look and feel of the original Azureus interface. Unfortunately this won't work for the iPhone either. The Swing plug-in makes heavy use of Java, and the iPhone doesn't support Java yet.

iPhone users might want to give the Azureus HTML Web UI plug-in a try instead. It's very ressource-friendly, uses only a little bit of Javascript and runs under Safari. I don't actually own an iPhone, but I tested this WebUI with the >iPhoney simulator and it seemed to run just fine. The only downside: The search function doesn't seem to work, so users still have to find Torrents through third-party websites.

Advanced users can even skin it through CSS. I wonde how long it will take until someone makes a dedicated iPhone skin that is optimized for the phone's screen resolution?


07/01 2007 | 11:27 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Wondered why there haven't been any updates here lately? That's because my wife and I've been spending the last couple of days and nights with diaper changes and other parently duties. It's been qite an experience - who would have thought that you need so little sleep once the endorphines kick in?

pacifiers
Photo: (CC) LabGP & SigOther

I'll be taking a few days off enjoy the rush - see you in mid-July!