You are currently viewing archive for March 2008
03/31 2008 | 03:14 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Remember that treadmill music video by OK Go? Band member Andy Ross recently recorded a video for the new Miro fundraising campaign that touches issues like Miro and net neutrality ... check it out here:

More infos about the campaign can be found here, and here's a clip about the band's testimony before congress.

03/31 2008 | 09:25 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers, one of the oldest and most prominent destinations for legal BitTorrent downloads, is relaunching today, and its new version offers a bunch of new features for users and content creators alike, among them a donation system to offer content creators a way to monetize P2P. Advanced community and content discovery features are slated to be added in the coming months.

When Legaltorrents first launched, back in 2003, the services and functions it offered — such as seed hosting for content creators, and enabling users an easy way to download a gigabyte’s worth of Creative Commons-licensed music in a single torrent — were remarkable and somewhat revolutionary. Legaltorrents was also one of the first sites to experiment with the combination of BitTorrent and RSS enclosures to automatically subscribe to downloads — a technology that today is at the core of players like Miro, and as well as numerous TV torrent download sites. The notion of legal content distribution through torrent sites has since moved into the mainstream as well; the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently openly embraced The Pirate Bay and Mininova, while carries shows from the likes of PBS and Showtime alongside user-generated content.

So how is the new Legaltorrents going to compete in this new, BitTorrent-friendly world? Continue reading at

03/29 2008 | 05:26 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Testing whether your ISP is throttling Bittorrent used to be a rather complicated undertaking. The EFF came up with a guide that, among other things, asks you to "disable TCP and UDP checksum offloading and TCP segmentation offloading." Riiight.

The Live CD previously mentioned on P2P Blog simplified tests quite a bit, but it still involved teaming up with another user of the same ISP. But things are becoming even easier with a new web-based tool developed at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Saarbruecken, Germany.

test your isp

From its website:

"This test suite creates a BitTorrent-like transfer between your machine and our server, and determines whether or not your ISP is limiting such traffic. This is a first step towards making traffic manipulation by ISPs more transparent to their customers."

Users just have to run a Java applet on their machine that tries to up- and download data via Bittorrent to and from the Institute's server. The tool tests different ports, so users will know whether their ISP is just blocking a certain port or interfering will all Bittorrent transfers.

comcast bittorrent throttling

P2P Blog tested the tool from residential Comcast line, and it accurately diagnosed a manipulation of the upload traffic. So how is your provider doing? Go ahead, run the test and let us know in the comment section!

03/28 2008 | 10:43 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Yesterday I wrote that Comcast cooperating with Bittorrent was the story of the day. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong: In the afternoon we saw something that might turn out to be the story of the decade, or at least the beginning of the end of the music biz as we know it.

Warner Music has hired digital music veteran turned industry critic Jim Griffin to spearhead a collective licensing initiative. Portfolio broke the story with a portrait of Griffin, and tons of people have since chimed in, with Mike Arrington calling the idea "the music industry's new extortion scheme", and others asking what would happen th the movie biz, photographers and other creative folks.

Hypebot has a great summary of the reactions in the blogosphere, but they got the headline all wrong, calling Griffin's plan an ISP music tax. I've had the pleasure to share many conversations with Jim Griffin over a bowl of soup at Pho 87 in Los Angeles, and I did a number of longer interviews with him over the years. We'll have to wait and see what Warner Music will actually end up doing, but Griffins thinking really doesn't have anything to do with taxation.

The key is that Griffin is championing voluntary collective licensing, meaning that ISPs won't have to pay five bucks per month - but they might want to anyway. Now why would they? Because it could help them to establish a multitude of new business models on top of their existing offerings.

People who have been following the P2P world in a while might remember Audiogalaxy as one of the greatest music sharing sites ever. It was web-based, semi-centralized and great to find indie and obscure stuff. You could even queue up downloads to start at a later time if any of the millions of tracks in Audiogalaxy's database wasn't available online right away. Well, guess what? Start collective licensing, and ISPs could run the next version of Audiogalaxy right within their networks, with fast download between their customers.

Now what about movies, TV shows and photos? And will someone please think of the smut peddlers? The beauty of voluntary collective licensing is that it is a business model, not a government mandate. It makes sense for music, so record labels will be the first ones at the table. Does it make sense for TV shows? Maybe not, advertising has been working out quite well for the networks for decades.

How about photos? I really don't know - but if photographers, or Getty for that matter, really felt like allowing file sharing in exchange for a collective license would help them, then they could approach ISPs and see what they can negotiate. My prediction is that we won't see any other collective license for quite a while. But, then again, I expected the music biz to take another ten or so years before they would embrace this idea. I guess they're smarter than I thought.

03/28 2008 | 12:02 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently made a bold decision to release an episode of the show Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister through BitTorrent. The move was remarkable not only because the national broadcaster decided to go completely ad- and DRM-free, but because it openly embraced platforms that are usually known for pirated content, the Pirate Bay and

But the experience has taught CBC a valuable lesson: Play with the outlaws, and you’re going to be treated like one. Numerous users have reported being unable to access the show downloads due to ISP-based BitTorrent throttling. To make matters worse, telecom company Bell Canada has just begun to throttle P2P traffic for all of its wholesale customers, potentially affecting a huge number of customers of other ISPs that resell Bell’s DSL service. Continue reading at

03/27 2008 | 11:50 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The collaboration between Comcast and Bittorent Inc. is certainly the news of the day. You can read the original press release in case you missed it, and my colleague Chris Albrecht has done a great job at summing up the issue over at Newteevee.

Comcast obviously did this to avoid any government intervention into their business practices, but it should be noted that Bittorrent seems to support this hands-off approach as well. The press release reads:

"Both BitTorrent and Comcast expressed the view that these technical issues can be worked out through private business discussions without the need for government intervention."

This is basically the mantra that Ashwin Navin has been repeating over and over since Comcast started blocking Bittorrent back in last summer. Here's what he told me when I interviewed him late last year:

"Where competitive forces are alive and well, and I believe they are here in the United States, I believe the ISPs will upgrade their networks to accomodate this usage pattern."

Which is why I was surprised when Bittorrent CTO Eric Klinker joined a Free Press panel in February that clearly supported government intervention. Nicholas Reville from Miro used the panel to demand "strong net neutrality leigslation", and Kliner, put on the spot about Navin's previous remarks, told journalists that his company felt "as strongly as Miro does” about the subject.

I guess this just means they were for the war before they were against it ...

03/26 2008 | 02:14 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Velocix, the UK-based content delivery service provider formerly known as CacheLogic, introduced a new line of live streaming solutions today, including live P2P streaming. Velocix is already working with a number of broadcasters, such as the BBC, as well as video startups such as the British Joost competitor Babelgum, so we can expect to see more live TV offerings pop up online in the near future.

Velocix isn’t the first one trying to leverage the power of P2P for live streaming. Recent efforts included Joost’s March Madness test, which got off to a rocky start. “It’s a technically challenging area,” admitted Velocix CEO Phill Robinson when I talked to him yesterday. But he believes that his company can do better than the competition. Continue reading at

03/25 2008 | 04:32 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
An ever increasing flood of lawsuits against file sharers that are trading pornographic movies is starting to take its toll on the German justice system, according to a well-respected local law blog. Prosecutors of the German city Essen reportedly were asked to start as many as 10.000 criminal investigations based on the sharing of pornographic material during the last quarter alone. Even a small town like Wuppertal, home to roughly 360.000 people, gets about 2000 of these lawsuits per month.

Most of these criminal investigations go nowhere. Only a few select cases have resulted in raids, much less in actual court decisions. But rights holders don't mind: They only care about name and address of the suspected porn fans that get revealed during the initial investigation. Once a company knows who is associated with a certain IP address, it uses this knowledge to send intimidating letters, complete with cost notices, threatening additional civil lawsuits if the alleged downloaders don't pay up.

Prosecutors become increasingly tired of being used as some sort of law and order 411, and they are starting to wonder why they're supposed to pick up the tab for investigations that aren't meant to produce any real results in the first place. reports that investigating a single IP address costs up to 50 Euro, which equals almost one trillion 80 US dollars.

German file sharers have been mobilizing against this kind of mass enforcement, calling it entrapment because fighting the lawsuit is oftentimes much more expensive than settling it. Plus of course not many users want to be part of a lawsuit that centers around porn titles like "Monster vaginas" or "Sperm flood".

Luckily, porn fans in Wuppertal and elsewhere are now geting some relief: More and more prosecutors chose to ignore the requests of rights holders, according to Wuppertal's prosecutors recently called the mass enforcement requests "obviously inappropriate."

(via gulli)

03/25 2008 | 12:29 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Limewire's newly launched music store might get integrated into the company's popular P2P client rather sooner than later, judging from first traces that popped up in a recent version of the software. Limewire's current stable release numbered 4.16.6 includes an entry in its Options menu that allows users to set a download directory for purchased songs.

limewire store

Limewire has always said that it wants to include context-relevant links to content from its download store into the client. This menu entry hints at a possible use of the Limewire client as a download manager for the store. The store's Terms of Use currently don't allow customers to use any download manager.

The same Terms of Use coincidentally also don't permit to share content from the download store through the client, but the software doesn't stop you from sharing the directory for store purchases manually. Limewire's copyright filter also doesn't seem to filter out the complete store catalogue. I was able to search for and download songs from at least one artist available on the Limewire download store.

03/24 2008 | 03:51 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Users of the Italian P2P site have compiled a Live CD to detect whether your ISP blocks Bittorrent. The project is partially based on the EFF's "Test your ISP" guide, but it simplifies the process quite a bit in that you won't have to install any additional software on your computer.

project gemini

From the website:

"In this project, our aim is to produce evidence with the technique below: we've developed two "Live" operating systems designed to connect with one another over the Internet, to start a BitTorrent transfer, and to record the transmission - after which it will generate a report containing the analysis of the traffic."

Users of the Live CD won't have to type any cryptic commands into a shell. In fact, you won't even have to deal with setting up a Bittorrent transfer - the Live CD starts a transfer automatically, with one user serving as a tracker and the other one as an uploader.

The Gemini project Live CD is based on Ubuntu and makes use of Wireshark as well as the pcappdiff tool that was developed by the EFF to verify that Comcast is in fact messing with Bittorrent transfers. Users who want to test their ISP have to pair up and download two different versions of the Live CD to be able to test actual transfers between different IP numbers.

I've heard from industry sources that there are some local US ISPs other than Comcast that block Bittorrent as well. Let's see if this tool helps to find out who exactly those companies are ...

03/21 2008 | 04:35 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Conde Nast's Portfolio just published a story about Joost as a company in crisis. Part of the article is a timeline that makes Joost's operations sound like a criminal investigation in the making. Here's a quick excerpt, leading all the way to the dramatic climax.

"October 2007: Joost is available to anyone, but new high-quality video sites begin popping up like prairie dogs in the desert. (...)

December 2007: Adobe releases Flash Player 9 (...)

January 2008: Influential tech website NewTeeVee posts a blog entry titled "Five Ways to Save Joost." "

Yepp, that's the title of a quick list of suggestions I compiled two months ago. Now let's wait and see how long it will take Joost to actually follow up on some of them.

(via Newteevee)

03/20 2008 | 04:50 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
German authorities have confiscated ten servers at a web hosting company in Frankfurt. The servers were part of a private torrent site that offered paid access to web-seeded Hollywood blockbusters and video game titles, according to the German anti-piracy association GVU.

A GVU press release states
that users had to pay between 20 and 500 Euros to get metered download access. The site supposedly had 13.000 paying members that transfered 60 Terabyte of data each month. There is no independent confirmation of any of these numbers at this point.

The investigations apparently started when the MPAA tried to track down leaked Oscar screeners. The first copy of one title was found on a fle sharing portal hosted in Germany, which is why the MPAA asked GVU to get involved. GVU initiated criminal investigations against the owner of the portal and asked the police to take actions against the servers in question. It's unclear whether anyone has been charged yet.

03/19 2008 | 05:49 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Sony won’t have much time to celebrate winning the format war against HD DVD: Notorious Antigua-based software maker Slysoft says it’s cracked Blu-Ray’s copy protection. Slysoft’s AnyDVD HD application is now offering unencrypted access to Blu-Ray content, making it possible to back up Blu-Ray discs onto your own hard drive, copy or transcode HD movies and watch them without DRM-compliant hardware, according to a company press release.

HD-DVD’s copy protection got cracked a good year ago; Blu-Ray promised Hollywood stronger protection with it’s own BD+ protection scheme. This promise was at least one factor in the industry’s backing of Blu-Ray and thus a nail in HD’s coffin. “Film studios that have switched to Blu-Ray may have crowed a little too early,” comments Slysoft in its press release announcing AnyDVD HD. Companies in the online HD space, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier. Continue reading at

03/17 2008 | 03:25 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
... they're going to ruin your company by using your network for P2P downloads - that's the message the IFPI is trying to get across with a new campaign aimed at corporate entities, according to Encore Digital Weekly and Hypebot.

The music industry trade group is referencing a half-year old report to scare companies into more proactive copyright enforcement policies. Because, you know, P2P networks are going to get you robbed, sued and infected by viruses.

Especially odd is a part that seems to single out younger coworkers as the gravest threat to corporate security. Encore quotes IFPI material with the following words:

"The problem appears to be concentrated among younger workers. The survey indicated that one in five under 25s illegally download music at work. It only takes one person to download an infected file and expose the company to huge risks."

Fight piracy. Only hire old farts. Now that's a message I'd really love to see on a billboard ...

03/16 2008 | 05:40 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Limewire has just launched its download store with a catalog of 500.000 DRM-free MP3s encoded at 256 kbps. Individual tracks are priced at 99 Cent per track. The store also offers a subscription model that somewhat resembles that of Emusic, with plans starting at 9.99 per month for 25 downloads. The "platinum" plan offers 75 downloads for 19.99, which brings the price of each track down to 27 cent.

limewire download store

Limewire's store offers the usual Web 2.0 bells and whistles, but it's not yet integrated with the Limwire client. The site states:

"In the future, LimeWire will be releasing a version of our file-sharing software optimized for integration with the Music Store. Stay tuned!"

The store is also limited to US-based music fans, with a international version promised for later times.

Limewire's entrance into the digital music business doesn't look all that different from offerings like the Amazon MP3 store or Emusic, but the company has plans to integrate context-based links into the client itself so that people who are searching for a certain song will have the option to buy it legally. We'll have to wait and see how big the impact of that is going to be.

03/16 2008 | 12:33 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It's common knowledge that rights holders are scouring file sharing networks for TV shows, Hollywood blockbusters and pop albums to fight against infringement. A list of works that have attracted lots of attention from lawyers in Germany reveals an unusual trend: More and more publishing houses fight infringement of literary works, suing file sharers that trade audio books and PDFs. These lawsuits seem to have targeted a work that's been in the public domain for years in at least one case.

German P2P activists have been compiling lists with files that can get you in trouble in file sharing networks. These lists so far feature remarkably little Hollywood fare, but a lot of pop music, especially from German musicians, quite a bit of mostly German porn and also various PC games.

German publishing houses seem to catch up with the rest of the entertainment industry though. File sharing users increasingly get sued for swapping audio books like Dan Brown's Illuminati and Ken Follett's The Third Twin. Users sharing ebooks are also under increased scrutiny. C&D letters have reportedly been sent out for books from Stephen King, Dan Brown and Alan Carr.

One reported case is particularly notable. A notorious German law office apparently sued a file sharer for a copy of the Edgar Wallace novel "The Blue Hand". The book was published in 1925, seven years before Wallace died. German copyright law only protects works up until 70 years after the authors death, which means Wallace's books became part of the public domain in 2002. In fact, Project Gutenberg lists a couple of his books as free downloads.

A number of German law offices has been offering rights holders in recent years to hunt down and sue file sharers. Lawsuits like these are quite lucrative in Germany: Cease and desist notices are routinely combined with invoices ranging from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, and certain law offices are know for sending out thousands of these letters.

03/15 2008 | 12:02 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Defunct P2P music startup Weedshare is auctioning off its assets consisting of its brand, its operational data, four web servers and some IP including a patent sharing agreement with Microsoft. The company is trying to find a buyer interested in taking over all the assets, but the patent sharing agreement seems to be the potential money maker here, with minimum bids starting at 105,000 USD.

Weedshare used to distribute DRMed music files through file sharing networks. The company allowed three free plays before users had to buy a track. It also developed some sort of pyramid scheme to reward users for sharing its music.

It was no secret in the industry that Weedshare wasn't really making lots of money, but the auction leaves no doubt about how little success the company had: Weedshare was only able to sell 35,000 tracks in four years of operation. Weedshare used to sell tracks for as little as 0.50 USD, so the company really didn't make any money at all.

Weedshare shut down in spring of 07 and initially blamed Microsoft for its failure because its DRM system wasn't compatible with the newest Windows Media Player version. The Weedshare folks now seem to understand that the whole idea of selling DRM-protected music through file sharing networks wasn't all that great either. They recently posed a message on a Weedshare-related Yahoo group that in part read:

"Lesson learned: even benign DRM is a bad idea. All forms of friction must be eliminated for authorized file sharing to work."

(Thanks, Rob!)

03/14 2008 | 01:03 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Verizon and Pando will use today’s DCIA conference in New York to release test results of a system aimed at reducing the impact of P2P traffic on ISPs. AP reported about this first, promising that the system will make P2P downloads up to six times faster while at the same time reducing the costs for ISPs. CNet added a few more details about the technology known as “P4P,” including the obvious fact that you really won’t see much higher speeds with a basic DSL line that’s already maxed out by your downloads. FIOS customers, on the other hand, should be able to tell the difference.

P4P is the result of a joint working group that includes P2P companies and ISPs as well as researchers from Yale that have been working on optimizing P2P networks for years. Here’s how it works, and what it means for your torrent downloads: Continue reading at

03/13 2008 | 09:12 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Ustream cofounder John Ham gave us a video preview of a new feature when we visited the company’s office this week: The live video site will allow its users to collaborate with the possibility to mix multiple video feeds in real time. Users can either interact with each other to create a kind of live talk show or import other Ustream feeds picture in picture.

Both could be very interesting for the evolution of live video. Live video hosts don’t have to be completely autistic anymore, and some folks could actually establish themselves as the real-time commentators on other shows, Mystery Science Theater-style. Ham told us the feature dubbed “Cohost” will be available within the next two weeks. It seems similar to offerings from companies like Mogulus and Operator11. Continue reading at

03/10 2008 | 02:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Comcast has been making headlines for months for their Bittorrent blocking, with the FCC looking into the company's actions and some congressmen even considering new laws against such behavior. German cable ISP Kabel Deutschland might soon face similar attention.

Customers of the company have talked about trouble with Bittorrent downloads for months. They all reported an odd pattern: Bittorrent up- and download speeds are dropping at 6pm sharp every night, only to get back to normal at midnight.

I just wrote an article about the subject for the website of the German Focus magazine, asked Kabel Online for a response - and was surprised about their answer. The company did not directly describe what they're doing, but admitted that a small percentage of its customers are affected because "the overwhelming majority of our customers doesn't use file sharing networks". The company also claimed that downloads are not time sensitive, meaning people just have to wait a few hours.

This is the first time a German ISP has admitted to selective network management. It will be inteersting to see if this will lead to a German version of the net neutrality debate.

03/07 2008 | 11:20 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Yahoo launched its location based service platform Fire Eagle this week at ETech. I wrote about it for Gigaom, but I also have a hand full of invites for folks who want to try it themselves. Drop me a note and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

03/06 2008 | 10:41 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Lawrence Lessig gave a first peek at his new political reform movement at the ETech conference in San Diego last night. Others have already written about it, so I won't repeat everything here, but I did want to share Lessig's reaction to one question from the audience.

One audience member asked Lessig about his opinion regarding file swapping and the Pirate Party. Lessig replied that he wholeheartedly supported the idea to legalize non-commercial file sharing, but the pirates didn't get too much sympathy from the Creative Commons founder.

"I'm skeptical of the utility of something like the Pirate Party in the United States", Lessig said. He did agree that the party might have the ability to impact the public discourse in countries like Sweden, but said that it would be counter-productive for the US.

Hollywood already painted the debate as a confrontation between an honest industry on one side and thieves on the other. "Call your party the Pirate Party, and you'll reinforce that. The branding is not one that I would embrace here in the United States."

03/04 2008 | 01:02 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Allpeers announced on Monday that it is going to shut down, and my colleagues over at Gigaom are reporting that the start-up just didn't show enough growth to be able to secure another round of funding.

So where can Allpeers users go next? Here are five suggestions, based on different usage scenarios:

If you want to swap torrents with your friends:
Podmailing. Podmailing is a service that combines server-based hosting with torrent downloads, so your files will be available online even if you're not.

If you want to download torrents with your browser: Bitlet. It's a complete Java Bittorrent implementation, so don't have to install anything. Just run the app in your browser, and you're ready to go.

If you want to combine Bittorrent with social features: Tribler. This Bittorrent client downloads content based on collaborative filtering. Think for torrents.

If you want to share files with a list of friends: This service offers buddy list style file sharing combined with encryption and a clever decentralized storage scheme.

If you want to automatically download the files your friends are sharing:
Foldershare. This Microsoft-owned P2P service is based on Audiogalaxy and makes it possible to automatically broadcast any kind of files to your friends' computers just like the file sharing network did with MP3s.

03/03 2008 | 01:03 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I'll be at the Graphing Social Patterns and ETech conferences in San Diego this week, which means postings on this blog will be light, but you might find a few articles from me on other sites ... and of course, feel free to drop me a note and say hello if you happen to be around!

03/01 2008 | 05:35 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
NBC Universal filed comments with the FCC this week that side with Comcast on BitTorrent blocking. The company opposes Net Neutrality regulations because it wants ISPs to filter out copyrighted content, and it seems to be willing to blame P2P for all the bad things in the online world in order to get what it wants. NBC’s FCC statement claims that P2P networks “exacerbate” network congestion and that P2P apps trick end users into supplying bandwidth and processing power.

Maybe NBCU’s lawyers should have checked back with the team from NBC Direct before filing these comments. The ad-supported download platform for TV content announced this week that it will be using Pando’s P2P technology to “provide millions of viewers free DVD-quality downloads.” Contine reading at