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11/30 2007 | 10:38 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German Pirate Party will take part in elections for the parliament of Hesse at the end of January. The party was officially admitted on Friday by the election administrator of the state after it submitted more than a thousand signatures of support about a week ago.

The elections in Hesse will be the first time for the German pirates to take part in the country's electoral system. The party will compete against 16 other political organizations ranging from the well-established, like the governing Christian Democrats, to the completely obscure, like the "Purple Party" - a group that wants to save the world through "spiritual politics".

Most of these parties never actually have a chance to save anything though. Hesse, like all other German states, has a multi-party system, but only parties that capture at least five percent of the votes get to send their representatives to the parliament. Last time around only four parties got more than five percent, or about 140000 votes.

It would be close to a miracle if the pirates were to actually become the fifth party in the parliament this time around - especially since the party seems to be largely unknown to most people and only has two months to change that. Pirates from the German state of Lower Saxony had to learn this lesson the hard way a good week ago: The local party chapter wasn't able to submit the 2000 signatures they needed to take part in that state's election.

11/29 2007 | 05:21 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Skype's slowing growth has recently raised some concerns about its future and the price Ebay paid for the VOIP provider. Ebay numbers may show that Skype users aren't really talking as much as the company wants them to, but they still talk a lot more than anyone else in the VOIP world: German traffic management company Ipoque estimates that 95 percent of all VOIP traffic is caused by Skype.

Ipoque published a report that analyzes P2P traffic trends this week, and Skype continues to be a noticeable factor in this space. From their press release:

"Voice over IP (VoIP) only accounts for one percent of the Internet traffic, but is used by 30 percent of all users. Skype is by far the most popular Internet telephony application."

30 percent of all German users, to be precise. Ipoque measures data at ISPs that use the company's traffic management applications, and the study is based on measurements from ISPs based in "Australia, Eastern Europe, Germany, the Middle East and Southern Europe."

Skype's popularity seems to vary significantly in these different places. The company estimates that 30 percent of Germany's internet population uses Skype, but only one percent uses SIP-based VOIP services. Skype's market share in the Middle East is just 7 percent, but SIP services don't seem to be any more popular there than in Germany.

11/28 2007 | 08:16 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Dozens of torrent sites, including well-known platforms like BTMON.com, BTJunkie.org and myBittorrent.com, could be forced to shut down by the end of this week, leaving the file-sharing world in turmoil. The expected mass exodus is due to a broad change of policy at the Dutch web hoster LeaseWeb, which used to be a reliable partner for many torrent sites but has recently come under pressure by rights holders.

The Netherlands isn’t the only region feeling the heat; rights holders are increasing the pressure on torrent sites around the world. P2P communities in recent weeks have been forced offline in Iceland, Canada, the UK and Hungary, leaving some P2P users to wonder if there are any safe places left for file-trading platforms. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

11/27 2007 | 03:39 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Fans of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul are distributing a documentary DVD about the anti-government candidate via Bittorent. Torrents for the DVD ISO file are available on The Pirate Bay and Mininova, and the file can be downloaded from the film maker's website as a direct http download as well.

From the website:

"We want to get as many of these DVDs in circulation as we can. As the campaign progresses, the DVD will be updated and will continually be improved to include all the best footage."

Now, personally I believe that anyone who wants US citizens to own automatic weapons just in case this whole democracy thing doesn't work out, who wants to leave the UN, arm commercial airplane pilots with guns, completely privatize health care and who thinks that the Civil Rights Act was a big mistake is a certified nutcase, but I guess that's just me.

11/27 2007 | 12:10 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
No, P2P is not just about file sharing. Browsershots is a distributed screenshot service that makes use of a centralized P2P approach to give you an idea of how your site looks like on different browsers and operating systems.

browsershots

From the website:

"When you submit your web address, it will be added to the job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your website in their browser. Then they will make screenshots and upload them to the central server here."

I guess the service has been around for a while, but I just found out about it now - and tested it with this website right away, just as every proud webmaster would do. The result. You really shouldn't try to access P2P Blog with IE under Windows 2000. Then again, you probably shouldn't run IE under Windows 2000. Oh well.

11/26 2007 | 01:07 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
When people talk about content being more accessible via P2P, they usually refer to movies or music you can't find anywhere else except on file sharing networks. But accessibility has a completely different meaning for people that are color blind, dyslexic or otherwise impaired. Of course there is no reason why blind people shouldn't download MP3s - except for the download platforms themselves.

The Swedish interaction design expert David Furendal recently did a study that compared the accessibility of the iTunes store and The Pirate Bay. And guess what? The pirates win once again.

The Pirate Bay offers its users a well-structured design that can easily be accessed with screen readers. All the essential information is represented as scalable text. Deaf people can find subtitles for many of the movies offered on The Pirate Bay online.

iTunes on the other hand is completely inaccessible for users who depend on screen readers. Font sizes can't be changed, and there are no movies with subtitles available on iTunes. "The overall impression of the accessibility of the iTunes store is poor", says Funderal.

Some of these issues can obviously be addressed by simple design changes. Others are more fundamental to the business models of online content delivery. Digital Rights Management and content restrictions don't just prevent copying, they can also lock users with impairments out. Funderal thinks the solution is simple:

"It is important that online stores for digital media become more accessible. One way of doing this can be to reduce the control over the system."


11/24 2007 | 01:11 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Spiderman 3, The Simpsons Movie or Transformers for $2 to $3 a pop, downloadable in the format of your choice, without any DRM or OS-specific media players at all? The offerings of the new movie download store ZML.com sound too good to be true — or at least too good to be legit. And in fact, they aren’t. ZML.com isn’t licensed by any of the Hollywood studios. The site is selling hundreds of blockbusters anyway, referring to a collective licensing agreement with an obscure Russian rights holders agency.

Sound familiar? That’s right, this is essentially the model that made Allofmp3.com one of the biggest and most controversial music download stores — at least until the site was forced to shut down in early July. Could ZML.com become a similar success, them similarly blow up under legal pressure? And how good could a download site like this be in the age of Amazon Unbox and NBC Direct? We gave it a try to find out. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

11/20 2007 | 06:46 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Has Mark Cuban been dancing with the stars a little too much lately? Cuban just published an "open letter to Comcast and Every cable/Telco" on his blog in which he demands that said telcos block P2P traffic. Because, you know, the tubes are clogged. Says Cuban:

"As a consumer, I want my internet experience to be as fast as possible. The last thing I want slowing my internet service down are P2P freeloaders. Thats right, P2P content distributors are nothing more than freeloaders. The only person/organization that benefits from P2P usage are those that are trying to distribute content and want to distribute it on someone else's bandwidth dime."

His proposed solution: Block P2P traffic for everyone - and then charge some extra fees to the few subscribers who can't go without their Joost, Bittorrent or Skype:

"P2P is probably the least efficient means of distributing content in the last mile. Comcast, Time Warner, etc should charge a premium to those users who want to act as a seed and relay for P2P traffic. After all, that is why P2P is used, right ? For content distributors to avoid significant bandwidth and hosting charges. That makes it commercial traffic far more often than not. So make them pay commercial rates."


Yes, this is the same Mark Cuban who used to be an early investor in Redswoosh and who bankrolled the EFF's defense of Grokster. At least I think he is. Maybe ABC replaced him with a double that dances better but talks more trash? In which case I'd suggest that the new Mark Cuban goes back and reads up on his own blog about the magnificent future the old Mark Cuban used to foresee for the P2P space. Back in 2005 he wrote:

"The ability for emergency relief workers to distribute videos of instructions on how to deal with a situation will be an invaluable application. In a car wreck and need instructions on how to apply a bandage or worse? Over the next 10 years 911 will be able to distribute a video with instructions to you and those around you and talk you through it. P2P is the most bandwidth effective distribution solution."

Unless, of course, your ISP decided to block it. But that would of course be your fault. You should have just gotten a premium bandwidth plan before you got into that car accident, you freeloader!

11/20 2007 | 11:19 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Those 6000 Mediadefender emails that leaked onto the web in September cost the anti-piracy outlet dearly: A recent SEC filing of Mediadefender parent ArtistDirect reveals that the company lost at least 825,000 dollars due to the hack - enough money to eat up all of ArtistDirect's profits for the third quarter. The biggest chunk of the money was apparently spent to keep Mediadefender's clients on board.

A hacker group that called itself Mediadefender-Defenders managed to get hold of a vast email archive in September that contained nine months of internal correspondence. It looks like the hackers were able to hack into one of the employee's GMail account. The SEC filing shows how serious the breach was:

"These e-mails contained confidential information and communications covering a wide variety of internal issues, including personal data, customer data and pricing information, and other sensitive information."

Part of the "other sensitive information" were also passwords that seem to have given them access data for various servers. The source code of some of Mediadefender's anti-piracy software and a transcript of a phone call appeared online soon after.

The SEC filing also details why this breach was so expensive:

"As a result of this development, MediaDefender recorded approximately $600,000 for service credits to customers, which were recorded as a reduction to revenues during the three months ended September 30, 2007. This amount was determined based on various factors, including discussions with customers, and is subject to adjustment in future periods based on additional information. MediaDefender also recorded approximately $225,000 of legal, consulting and other direct costs related to the breach during the three months ended September 30, 2007."

600,000 dollars in service credits sounds a lot for a breach that essentially was based on hacking a GMail account - unless a company just has a handful of clients that need to be kept happy at any cost. The SEC filing shows that Mediadefender is generating 66 percent of its revenue with just four clients, and it was apparently willing to sacrifice this quarter's earnings to save these relationships. Artistdirect registered a net loss of 183,000 dollars for the quarter ending September 30th, compared to a net income of 839,000 dollars for the same quarter last year.

But at least everything is under control now - at least if we can believe the company's SEC filing:

"An internal investigation of this matter is continuing, as a result of which the Company has revised various procedures and policies and enhanced its online and Internet security protocols."

11/19 2007 | 12:36 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Title 18 Section 2257 of the US criminal code has long been a cause of trouble for the adult industry. The law, which is meant to protect minors from being abused in porn movies, in a nutshell mandates that porn companies keep records of all actors that appear in their products.

Of course this sounds like a good idea, but the law also covers so-called secondary producers of content, which essentially includes everyone who repackages porn for redistribution - a broad definition that can range from a studio reusing scenes for a compilation DVD to a blogger publishing porn pictures on his website.

2257 has been criticized heavily by both the adult industry's own Free Speech Coalition and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who believes that these regulations are "a problem for everyone who wishes to keep the Internet a vibrant forum for debate." The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed and found 2257 unconstitutional.

But if you ask porn producers about the issue that they're most passionate about, it's not free speech, but Torrent sites. The adult industry publication XBiz recently asked a few producers what they'd like to get rid of the most, section 2257 or piracy? And, guess what: It's the latter.

Paul Armstrong from AdultRental.com told XBiz that piracy is "a global phenomenon with no end in sight." He also shared a few half-informed observations about piracy, blaming "e-mail newsgroups" for being the most efficient method to download content without paying for it. Says Armstrong: "Users do not require additional software, only an email client."

Mary Gillis from Maleflixxx on the other hand is sure that her company's products are not affected by piracy: "We actually had three of our guys stay home one day and try and hack our streams and after eight or nine hours, they only got a few seconds. We know we're secure." Some people migh consider that a challenge.

A guy only identified as Brad from Adultlounge.com finally seemed to have the most realistic outlook for the adult industry: "We must learn to acclimatize or we are doomed to be grabbing at an ever-shrinking piece of the pie."

11/16 2007 | 02:07 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German IFPI knows what you did last summer - at least if you're one of those unfortunate file sharers that faced a raid as part of a criminal investigation against copyright infringement. German music industry lawyer Clemens Rasch told reporters this week that the police regularly sends computers they confiscate during these raids to his Promedia Anti-piracy company, as heise online reports.

Rasch explained that his company copies the entire hard drive of each computer they receive from investigators. These copies are used to find further proof for copyright infringement. Computers with cloned disks are apparently sent back to the police.

The cooperation between Promedia and police is troubling for a number of reasons, one being the fact that the music industry is far from an independent expert in these cases. There are also obvious privacy issues, with police possibly violating a range of laws by giving Rasch and his company de-facto access to e-mails, instant messaging log files, online banking information and much more that happens to be saved on the same PC as some possibly illegal MP3s.

heise online also points out that sharing evidence with the music industry raises questions of possible tampering with said evidence, putting the whole case in danger and opening a new line of defense for German file sharers.

Another upside is that Germany has strong privacy protections that, among other things, make it possible for every individual to request detailed documentation about the kind of information a company has saved about him. German file sharers that were subject to a raid should consider sending these requests to Promedia - would be interesting to see what the answer will be.

11/15 2007 | 10:55 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The video documentation of last months The Oil of the 21st Century conference has founds its way on the net via the V2V video syndication network. Videos of some (or maybe all?) of the panels are available as Torrent and ED2K downloads.

oilof

This one looks particularly interesting:

File-Sharing as Culture Industry

"Peer-to-peer networks are here to stay. Often dismissed as a mere conspiracy of teenage consumers against the media industry, these networks have become one of the most powerful and resilient environments for the collaborative production and reproduction of cultural data. Thus it seems that the question of file-sharing is no longer just a matter of identifying and routing around its corporate adversaries. Instead, it is becoming a question of organization. One can already make out a multitude of new initiatives, groups, alliances, coalitions and business entities that are heavily - and not only ideologically - invested in the future of peer-to-peer protocols and infrastructure. The next Culture Industry may already be in the making."

11/15 2007 | 10:02 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I'm still in SF and offline most of the day, so catching up to the news of the day is a little slower that usual ... but this one is worth mentioning: Azureus CEO Gilles BianRosa almost didn't make it to NewTeeVee Live yesterday because the company decided to get involved in the fight for net neutrality with a petition to the FCC that addresses various types of blocking and throttling methods ISPs have put into place to limit their customer's Bittorent usage.

The most prominent example for this obviously is Comcast, but Gilles reminded us yesterday that Comcast is no isolated incident and that ISPs have been experimenting with stuff like this for the last 24 months. The company now wants the FCC to step in and stop these interferences, but is also open for direct discussions with ISPs to relieve some of the pressure P2P traffic is putting on their networks and peering bills.

The complete petition is available as a PDF online. Here is a quick excerpt from today's press release:

"'Now is the time to embrace the sea changes in entertainment consumption that are occurring. The rapid convergence of the entertainment and Internet industries has enabled the delivery of high-quality video, and these throttling tactics represent growing pains as ISPs resist inevitable change,' said Gilles BianRosa, CEO of Vuze. 'We hope our Petition will trigger a public discussion, but we also need the FCC to act. The industry needs transparency into what ISPs are doing and an environment that fosters innovation in online entertainment.'"

11/14 2007 | 11:33 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
“Don’t prepare for your panel!” Liz kept telling me. “Don’t even call it a panel. We want it to be a casual conversation.” Meanwhile, PR folks from the panelists involved kept emailing and calling: “What are you going to talk about on your panel? How can we prepare for it?” No pressure…

No, seriously, it was a lot of fun. Aswhin Navin from BitTorrent, Gaurav Dhillon from Jaman, Gilles BianRosa from Azureus and Bo Wandell from GridNetworks joined me and about 40 other NewTeeVee Live attendees for a casual conversation about the opportunities and obstacles P2P vendors face in the online video space. We talked about DRM, network neutrality, HD and the future of BitTorrent while enjoying our lunch boxes. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits: Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

11/13 2007 | 02:54 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I'm a little late with this one because I was strugling with a deadline and now I'm on my way to Newteevee live, but I thought it was still interesting to mention that EMI has sued Michael Robertson of MP3.com fame for his Sideload.com platform. Sideload.com makes it possible to fill up your personal MP3Tunes.com music locker with tracks available on the web. EMI argues that Robertson doesn't have a license to use those tracks, but his argment is that Sideload is merely a search engine.

I'm not sure how far this lawsuit will go, but if brought to trial it could make up for an interesting precendence for the legaliy of Torrent siets in the US. Of course judges could also decide to simply rely on the Grokster decision and say that Sideload encourages infringement. Note to media startup execs: Never send out e-mails that promise "Over 400,000 Tracks(...) At No Cost!" That's just gotta make lawyers itchy.

11/10 2007 | 03:08 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Newteevee Live, the conference about reinventing television, is going down next Wednesday in San Francisco, and I'll be moderating the P2P networking lunch featuring Peter Bradley Gilles Bianrosa from Azureus, Gaurav Dhillon from Jaman and Ashwin Navin from BitTorrent Inc. Think of it not as your regular panel, but a lunch conversation with microphones.

See my panel at... NewTeeVee Live — November 14 in San Francisco

The whole event will be available as streaming video online as well, but if you still want to register: There are still some tickets left, and Techcrunch even has a 20 percent off coupon. In any case, feel free to stop by and say hello if you're around.

Update: The conference is sold out. See you in SF!


11/08 2007 | 04:20 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Many movie and software release groups have been relying on the Canadian email provider Hushmail to communicate with the outside world. Hushmail offers encrypted web-based email, and its web site promises that "not even a Hushmail employee with access to (...) our servers can read your email."

Turns out the feds can, though. Hushmail has been cooperating with US law enforcement requests to hand over specific emails - unencrypted, of course. Wired News just documented a case in which the company turned over 12 CDs with emails of three of its users to the DEA following a local court order that was based on a mutual assistance treaty between the US and Canada.

Hushmails CTO Brian Smith didn't want to comment on this specific case, but he layed out in detail how someone - and that presumably includes the company itself as well, if ordered to do so by a court - could attack and exploit Hushmails webmail system. Says Smith:

"A web-based email service is never going to reach the rigorous level of security of an entirely client-based solution like GnuPG."

11/07 2007 | 12:00 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Blogs, forums and link directories have been at the center of the controversy around one click hosters like Rapidshare and Megaupload. Link directories often link thousands of movies, music and software titles hosted on these sites whereas dedicated bloggers tend to specialize in niches and often upload the content themselves.

Some rights holders have been going after bloggers directly, but many avoid costly persecutions and simply use these blogs and directories to send out mass take-down notices to file hosters.

Some bloggers are now reacting by encrypting their links, effectively making it impossible to figure out the exact URL under which the content is hosted. Knowledge of this URL is an important prerequisite for sending out DMCA take-down notices.

rapidbolt

One of the web sites offering such encryption services is UK-based Rapidbolt.com. The site replaces regular Rapidshare links with links to custom Rapidbolt web pages that offer direct access to the downloads in question. The only downside: The service only works for registered premium users - unregistered users won't be able to access any of the downloads.

11/06 2007 | 02:23 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German branch of the music industry association IFPI has been keeping busy touring German schools in order to spread copyright awareness. This week they stopped at a school in the tiny town of Koenigsbach-Stein, where students formed a human guitar "as a symbol for the value of music and their respect for creativity", acording to IFPI, whose press release goes on saying: "The students are making clear that illegal downloading is no petty fault."

air guitar

I'll leave it to others to figure out how a giant guitar made out of students is demonstrating the seriousness of copyright infringement, but I want to point one thing out: Look closely at the picture, and you'll get a better sense of who is making what clear here. There's teacher ordering people around in the upper right corner, and then there is what I'd assume is the school's principal standing right in the middle of the whole thing, making sure that everyone is in line.

I wonder how this picture would have looked like without any teacher involvement? And how long will it take before some P2P-loving students somewhere else in the world will answer this obvious challenge by posing, say, as a giant human Pirate Bay-inspired cassette tape skull? It's on, kids, it's on.

11/05 2007 | 11:11 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Dominik Grolimund of Wua.la recently got invited to the Googleplex to talk about his distributed storage and file sharing system. The video of the session offers a great in-depth look at Wua.la and its underlying P2P architecture. Expect lots of mathematical graphs and formulas - he is talking to Google engineers after all :)

The video can't be embedded, not sure what that's about, but you can watch it over at Google Video. Make sure to also read my Wua.la review and get your Wua.la invite here.

11/04 2007 | 12:00 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The folks over at the Participatory Culture Foundation are gearing up for the 1.0 release of their Miro video player, formerly known as Democracy, and you can practically hear them sharpening their knives. The Getmiro.com web site is now featuring a comparison of Miro and Joost, and Joost doesn’t get much love: “Miro is open like the Internet. Joost works like a cable company with DRM.” Snap!

mirovsjoost.jpg The aggressive tone of the site is understandable. Miro is an excellent product, but ever since they launched late last year, Joost has been getting all the attention. But is it really true that Joost is “a pretty dull product,” as the Miro blog laments? We’re not so certain about that. Sure, Joost has its shortcomings, but it also has some pretty innovative features. So why not learn from the competition? You can always start your knife fight later. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

11/02 2007 | 03:13 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Limewire CEO George Searle opened his keynote at the P2P Advertising Upfront LA event earlier this week with an unexpected observation. Searle told the audience that there is no growth in the online music market. Market researchers actually would expect music downloads to go down by seven percent over the next five years. Paid search on the other hand would grow by 132 percent.

This observation was especially surprising because Limewire has spend the last couple of years working on an online music store that will finally be unveiled in in time fore the holiday season later this year. But it looks like selling music downloads is only the first step for Limewire. The company has its eyes set on the growing online ad market, and it's willing to learn a lesson or two from Google in this space.

Searle told the audience that Limewire gets about seven million new downloads per month, and its users generate a total of five billion searches per month, which supposedly puts it in the same league as Google itself. If Limewire was a web search engine, it would be on third place behind Google and Yahoo in terms of unique visitors, but ahead of Microsoft's Live.com, according to Searle.

The obvious difference between those search engines and Limewire is that Limewire doesn't monetize its search traffic at all. Well, that and all those MP3z, I guesss. The company wants to change that with contextcual advertising that is similiar to Google's Adwords - text based ads that are clearly seperated from, but related to the actual search results. Searle showed a slide with what I suppose was a mockup of the client, and the ad placement pretty much looked like it does on Google right now: Two text ads on top of the search results, three or four on the side.

These text ads will initally be used to power the Limewire music store, pointing users to licensed tracks related to their search requests, but the company eventually wants to make this available for third-party advertisers as well, allthough Searle declined to state when that might be.

I talked briefly to Searle after his keynote and asked him why they'd enter the music business at all if music sales aren't promising any growth. He explained that his company believes music sales won't go away either, but I guess the lawsuit of the music industry against Limewire might play a role as well. I'd also expect that the Limewire music store could be a great test case to fine-tune the actual advertising product. In any case, it will definitely be intreresting to see what they're going to come up with.

11/01 2007 | 03:10 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Mininova.org has reached three billion torrent downloads this week. The site is reaching this milestone just after announcing its first video promotion deal and less than five months after getting to two billion downloads.

mininova
Mininova traffic stats.

Mininova is a tad shy of the original goal to double the number of torrent downloads every half year, but the overall statistics are still very impressive: The site is getting about six to seven million search requests per day, and there are almost 14 million unique files in the Mininova database. These files are connected to 537,000 torrents - a number that is growing by about a thousand each and every day.

Mininova president Erik Dubbelboer was recently interviewed by the German Netzpolitik TV podcast where he revealed that the site has about two million unique visitors and 14 to 15 million pageviews per day - statistics that according to Dubbelboer mean that "two percent of the world population" have visited Mininova so far.