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08/30 2007 | 05:50 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Joost just released version 0.12.0 of its P2P TV client this week. The new releases offers end users a bunch of bug fixes, but developers get a special treat: Joost has opened up its API and now makes it possible to develop third-party widgets that can be installed within the client.Joost Widget Manager

Joost users have had access to a few select widgets from within the client since the beginning. They can chat with each other, read RSS feeds, and watch the time go by with a simple clock widget. The new API will greatly enhance these capabilities and help to make Joost more social. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

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08/30 2007 | 03:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The EFF reminds us that it has already been four years since the RIAA sued the first batch of P2P users. They commemorate this event with a long paper about those four years, and what can I say? It's a trip down memory lane, starting with the lawsuits against a few college kids who offered campus wide file search engines to the ill-fated amnesty program (maybe some folks from Albuquerque should read this part) to the lawsuit against a dead woman.

Ahh, good times. Except of course for anybody who has been affected by this shock and awe campaign in one way or anther. Or EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann for that matter, who sounds like these four years have led to some seriously elevaved blood pressure:

"History will treat this as a shameful chapter in the history of the music industry, when record companies singled out random music fans for disproportionate penalties. Artists must be compensated, but these lawsuits aren't putting money in any creator's pocket."

08/27 2007 | 03:54 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The New York Times had an interesting article a couple days ago about a trade conflict between Antigua and the US. Antigua has been home to several online casinos that target, amongst others, US gamblers. Business has been thorny though, mostly because online gambling is illegal for US residents.

Antigua filed a trade complaint against the US in front of the World Trade Organization back in 2003, and scored repeat victories - only to see the WTO rulings ignored by Washington. Now the island is asking for an unusual form of damages. From the article:

"But not complying with the decision presents big problems of its own for Washington. That’s because Mr. Mendel, who is claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, has asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others."


Maybe the next Allofmp3 will be based in Antigua - and actually sanctioned by the WTO ...

(via Podcasting News)

08/27 2007 | 02:33 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
One of the downsides of having a niche blog with a little bit of a business / techology angle is that you get a lot of comments from people who don't really want to contribute to the discussion but simply pitch their product. I don't have a golden rule on how to deal with such comments. Usually I'm pretty lax, but I do tend to delete the sneakier stuff, like links to questionable Russian online music websites that feature an affiliate id ...

Today I got another comment that was a little too much over the top. Someone from Gigatribe send me this extremely long rant about their personal P2P product, including a top ten list of arguments on why I should feature Gigatribe on this blog. Reason number one was kind of amusing though:

"1. The best way to share full-length porn movies with friends!!!"

Now that's what I call honest. Gigatribe definitely seems to have a good idea about their target audience and its needs. I couldn't tell if it is true because Gigatribe is Windows only. I work on a Mac, and I bought it for the articles. No, really. But if anyone wants to try if swapping porn works better with Gigatribe than, say, Allpeers - by all means give it a try and then let us know about it in the comments.

08/25 2007 | 06:46 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
We all know the numbers by now. Some 50 million U.S. Internet users have used file-sharing platforms. Popular networks like Gnutella/Limewire and eMule together make up for eight to nine million simultaneous users at any given time. And BitTorrent is responsible for 30 to 50 percent of all internet traffic, give or take.

emuleverycd But there is a whole world of P2P services with millions of users out there that most of us have never even heard of. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Internet users get their media through encrypted and secretive darknets. China is on the forefront of P2P television. And then there is Korea, where file swapping is widespread even after major P2P providers were forced to shut down. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

08/22 2007 | 12:05 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Imagine you're starting a local Twitter clone. You copy Twitters functionality, layout and even their claim. You get some coverage on Techcrunch and Mashable and some nice investment money from some infamous copycats turned venture capitalists.

Problem is, you just don't have enough users. Just 20.000 of them four months after your launch, to be precise. So what do you do? How about buddying up with a company that offers free downloads of movies and TV shows and that repeatedly got in trouble for doing so?

That's exactly what the German Twitter clone Frazr decided to do. Frazr cooperates with Onlinetvrecorder.com - a platform that enables its users to record and download shows from more than 30 German TV stations. Some of these stations previously got injuctions against Onlinetvrecorder.

frazr
Downloading American Dad, ER and Family Guy for free at Onlinetvrecorder.com.

The company responded by moving its corporate headquarters to Vanuatu and its TV recording units to Sealand. OTR, as fans call the site, might not be exactly legal - but it's extremely successful in Germany. The site has 370.000 registered users and 70.000 visitors per day, at least if you believe OTR owner Guido Ciburski.

Frazr apparently did, and they wanted in. The startup partnered with OTR to get new users to join both services simultaneously. Users who sign up for OTR are now asked if they want to get TV show updates per SMS through Frazr. They also get a little incentive: Sign up for Frazr, send two messages and you'll get some points that help you to get easier access to OTR downloads.

frazr
"Don't want to miss your favourite TV shows ever again? Frazr will remind you! Record them with just one click!"

Frazr even went the extra mile to make sure OTR users feel welcome on their platform. They build a landing page and added some special hints to their help section that describe how to record shows through Frazr. One of the featured TV networks for this function is PRO7 - the very network that won an injunction against Onlinetvrecorder.com about a year ago.

frazr
Need some help with recording shows from stations that previously won injunctions against OTR? Just write to hilfe@frazr.de.

People have given Frazr a hard time for essentially copying Twitter, but they deserve some credit for innovative ideas: Facilitating legally questionable downloads of commercial video content - now that's a feature that Twitter users have been missing out on.

08/19 2007 | 02:02 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
You’re trying to download the latest Madonna album, only to find the pop queen calling you…a thief? Welcome to the odd and oftentimes annoying war against piracy. The entertainment industry has been hiring companies to pollute P2P networks with phony files for years, and now some of these very same companies are going into marketing. Instead of sabotaging file transfers, they offer their own media for download, and instead of corrupted files, suddenly it’s all about branding.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Mediadefender has been at the center of this shift. The subsidiary of ARTISTdirect is known and hated in the file-sharing world for its anti-piracy work, but has recently gotten a lot of press for an upcoming campaign involving ad-supported MP3 downloads. Mediadefender has been experimenting with P2P marketing for a number of years now, and they’ve learned a few lessons along the way. VP Jonathan Lee agreed to share some of them with me. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

08/18 2007 | 02:17 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The notorious Russian MP3 site Allofmp3.com is working on a comeback under a different top level domain. Allofmp3.com closed down in early July under the pressure of local authorities and western rights holders. The domain wasn't available for about a month and a half, but now forwards to Allofmp3.ru.

allofmp3

From the new site:

"Allofmp3.com has been relocated to it's native RUssian (sic) domain name, allofmp3.ru."

The site is still very bare bones and just features some news items on the front page. Click through to any of the blog entries, and you end up with a page layout that pretty much looks like the old Allofmp3.com. All of the music blogs and reviews are already up again, and there even is a field to search the music catalogue. Searches do however end with an error message:

"Service Temporary Unavailable. Please try to reload page a bit later. Thank you for your patience."

Allofmp3 seems to be serious about reopening, at least if you believe this recent blog entry:

"The service will be resumed in the foreseeable future. We are doing our best at the moment to ensure that all our users can use their accounts, top up balance and order music. "

Of course, Allofmp3 was never really gone. The site owners launched two sites under new names back in April to prepare for a shutdown, and both MP3sparks.com and Memphismembers.com seem to do just fine.

08/15 2007 | 03:43 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Will the Allofmp3 saga ever end? At least it won't end in jail for former Allofmp3 owner Denis Kravsov. A court in Moscow acquitted him today of copyright infringement.

There are still conflicting stories about the reasons for the verdict though: CNet / Reuters and Forbes / AFP are basically saying that the prosecutors weren't able to present convincing evidence to the court, while Ars Technica is arguing that Kravsos left Allofmp3 before recent copyright changes came into effect.

No word yet either on whether the verdict will affect the recent shutdown of the Allofmp3.com website. So, yes, the saga continues ...

08/14 2007 | 04:32 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Limewire officially announced their music download store today. The store will be web-based and feature DRM-free MP3 downloads from various indie labels. The company is cooperating with digital distributor IRIS on the project, which will bring labels like Ninja Tune, Ghostly International and Kranky to the store. Nettwerk, known for managing Avril Lavigne and bashing the RIAA, is also joining up with Limewire.

limewire store

The Limewire music store has been long in the making. The company originally intended to cooperate with Weedshare to distribute Windows Media DRM files directly through the Gnutella network, but is now settling for a more traditional and customer-friendly solution.

Tracks will initially only be available on the website of the Limewire shop, but the P2P client will display links to these downloads when people search for any relevant tracks. The store will also offer a subscription package, which I imagine will be Emusic-style, meaning that you get a set amount of tracks per month for 10 or 15 dollars. No word yet on the launch date of the store, but there is already a placeholder set up at www.limewire.com/store/.

08/14 2007 | 02:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
File sharing activists like to argue that swapping music and movies is not just about getting content for free, but about preserving the world's knowledge in a decentralized fashion. Some folks from the Pirate Cinema Berlin now decided to put their money PHP coding skills where their mouth is and created a huge database for films that are available on P2P networks called 0xdb.

0xdb

From the 0xdb website:

"What the 0xdb provides is, essentially, full text search within movies, and instant previews of search results. The core idea behind the 0xdb is that file-sharing networks can not only be used to download digital works, but also to just retrieve information about them. Even though most movies in the 0xdb are copyrighted, and many of them are practically inaccessible for legal reasons, the monitoring of peer-to-peer traffic allows the 0xdb to identify and index these materials."

0xdb

Yes, you read that one right. Full text search. 0xdb makes use of the subtitle files people share on P2P networks to make movies searchable by keywords, which actually is pretty damn clever. Subtitle files are already time-coded, so all 0xdn does is mapping the subtitles against time-stamped screenshots of the movies.

0xdb

0xdb also offers a somewhat abstract timeline of each film that is based on pixel-based renderings of the movie, with each second representing one pixel on the screen. Users are able to navigate through the timeline and request short Flash clips from each scene.

There are also flash clips available in scene mode, which obviously raises some copyright issues. 0xdb does refer to fair use principles and they might have a good case - after all, the site doesn't allow any movie downloads, and the clips are more like quotes than anything else. Finally, many movies listed right now aren't indexed yet, and most of them shouldn't even be on the radar of big rights holders. The site looks more like the database equivalent to an art house theater that specializes in showcasing 1960ies French cinema than anything else.

0xdb

0xdb does also collect additional material about each movie, including posters and credits, and the site is linking out to a bunch of other sites to provide some more background info. One final feature that I really like is the maps view - it basically shows locations related to a movie on a Google map. All of this makes 0xdb a really interesting project, if only to show of what's possible once you make all knowledge universally available online.

Update: I've noticed a high number of referrers from 0xdb in my server logs. Turns out that the 0xdb index page sometimes redirects visitors back to the previous site when they click on the enter button, probably due to some weird Javascript bug ... it should work the second time around though. You can also try to go the 0xdb about page first and then click through to the main site.

08/12 2007 | 05:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Want to give your new TV show a big promotional push? Forget about those promo DVDs in Entertainment Weekly, nobody watches them. P2P is where it’s at for a new generation of TV viewers. At least that appears to have been the rationale of a WB TV employee who recently claimed that he helped to leak the pilot of the network’s new production, “Pushing Daisies,” onto various Torrent Web sites.

Actually, he didn’t do the whole thing by himself. His neighbor’s kid helped him out. Unfortunately, not everyone has such helpful neighbors, which is why it might be time for a quick P2P primer for network executives: Want to make your show popular with the fifty or so million Americans who use P2P networks? Go ahead - but keep a few things in mind. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

08/08 2007 | 12:51 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Ever wondered how Viacom is able to demand hundreds of thousands of take-downs from Youtube? No, they don't have semi-intelligent bots scouring the video site. Instead, they rely on good old manual labor - in this case subcontracted through BayTSP. The Wall Street Journal has a great article about the folks who do the dirty cleansing work for Viacom:

"Tethered to his computer by headphones, Mr. Bersik on a recent day played the music video of R&B singer Akon's hit song 'Don't Matter' on YouTube. The logo of the MTV Jams TV channel was visible at the bottom of the clip. The 53-year-old Mr. Bersik watched for a minute then fired an alert to a colleague who sent an email requesting that YouTube take it down. In about two hours, the video was gone."

So how much do you get in exchange for bleeding eyes caused by watching blurry Flash videos eight hours a day? 11 bucks per hour, and there is now word about benefits in the article. The Journal does however mention "subsidized sodas". At least they're not thirsty.

08/06 2007 | 02:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
iTunes has been used for file swapping for quite a while. Apple originally made it possible for users to stream files from one computer to another over the internet. The company quickly moved to restrict this feature to local networks, and has since crippled it even further, limiting the maximum amount of connections to reduce campus file sharing.

Creative developers have been filling this gap with their own software. Programs like Ourtunes are making it possible to download files from any iTunes user in your local network. Software like Senuti power charges the good old sneaker net by transferring files from any iPod back to your computer.

A new OS X app called Mojo takes this concept one step further: The program helps to share iTunes libraries over the internet and allows to download any MP3 or AAC file from your buddies. Users can also connect within their local network via Bonjour and transfer complete albums in seconds. Mojo's interface looks just like the iTunes GUI, making it an ideal application for people who don't want to worry too much about the technical aspects of file swapping.

mojo

New users need to sign up through the application with Mojo and then add their friends to their buddy list. Local users are added automatically. Double-click on any username in your buddy list, and an iTunes-like browser opens that gives you access to the user's complete library. You can stream and download any file and also browse every playlist.

mojo

The playlist access is great. It's unfortunate though that users can't offer select access. Not only are podcasts listed alongside regular MP3s, Mojo also lists any file that you might have stored away on an external hard disk that isn't connected to your computer right now. The app does keep track of your downloads though, greying out any song that you already have in your library.

Another neat feature is the ability to subscribe to remote playlists. Files are automatically downloaded as soon as the remote playlist is updated. Think of it as an automatically generated personal music podcast. This by the way is something I'd really like to see incorporated into Songbird. Maybe through a plug-in?

Mojo uses a Jabber server to connect to friends over the internet. The company currently uses their own server for this purpose, but there are plans to make it easier to use custom Jabber servers - a great option for folks who want to share their music in a more secure fashion. The application also makes use of NAT traversal to bypass firewalls, and the Mojo developers are sharing their knowledge about this process on their blog, which seems like a good resource for any developer working in this space.

Overall, Mojo looks like a really interesting application for Mac music lovers. There is some room for improvement when it comes to selective sharing of files. Still, the application is great for users who don't want to deal with more complicated and less secure file sharing networks, but just get some music recommendations from people they trust. I could actually see myself compiling custom playlists to make them available to my Mojo friends - especially since I could do this right within iTunes, with Mojo doing the heavy lifting in the background. Sweet.

08/04 2007 | 11:15 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Public radio is probably the last thing video podcasters have on their mind when they are searching for inspiration. Instead, people are looking to new media pioneers like Rocketboom or to old media rebels like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The result usually is a guy or a girl sitting in an improvised faux TV studio, talking about tech news while trying to be funny. Sometimes this works, more than often it doesn’t.

But, public radio? Isn’t that even more boring? Yes, usually it is. Except for Ira Glass and his show This American Life. Glass has been using the show to break the paradigms of radio for more than ten years now. He is putting the spotlight on folks who tend to get ignored by other journalists, and he is a master of delicate storytelling. Glass is also something of a pioneer of citizen participation in media. Some of his best shows feature folks who have never done radio before. Glass has been reaching out to amateurs for years, sharing knowledge and encouraging them to find their own voice. One of his latest targets: Video podcasters. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

08/04 2007 | 12:09 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
There are tons of services out there that facilitate private file sharing. Most of them are based on Bittorrent. Some even offer the capability to download Torrents with the same program. Aside from that it's Balkanization though: Each service uses its own extension of the Bittorrent protocol, which means that Pando users can't talk to Allpeers users and vice versa.

Paris-based Zslide wants to bridge this gap now by making its Podmailing service compatible in both ways: You can use the Podmailing client to transfer plain vanilla Torrents, but you can also initiate private file transfers with users of Azureus, µTorent or any other Bittorrent client. And the best thing: Podmailing makes use of Amazon's S3 to cache files, meaning that you don't even have to be online for the file transfer to finish.

podmailing

Podmailing apparently offered Bittorrent compatibility for a while now, but the whole thing didn't really work for me when I tried it previously. The company has just released a new, completely revamped version of the client - and it works like a charm.

I used Podmailing to "send" a file to an email address. The client almost immediately started to upload the file to S3, and the recipient got an email with a link to a customized Podmailing website that offered the choice between a regular Torrent file and a .zed file - that's Podmailing's extended Torrent format, offering some additional metadata and, in case of a movie file, a screenshot. I used Azureus to download the file - and again, it worked flawlessly.

podmailing

Another interesting aspect of Podmailing is that the service isn't nosy at all. You don't need to sign up for an account - just provide your e-mail address, and you're ready to go. And finally, files can easily be forwarded to multiple recipients after being uploaded just one single time.

I must say I'm really impressed with Podmailing. It doesn't have many hugely innovative features that would set it apart from it's competitors - but it does a great job with the basics, and the possibility to privately share large files with any Bittorent user definitely makes it a keeper. After all, which other program that you've never heard of offers you instant access to a base of tens of millions of users?