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04/29 2008 | 02:54 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The US Trade Representative has just published the annual "2008 Special 301 Report", which is basically a naughty list of countries around the world that don't protect intellectual property in a way the US deems adequate. This year's special watch list features countries like China and Russia, while the regular watch list mentions Canada, Malaysia and Vietnam among others.

Notably absent from both lists is Sweden. The country has drawn the ire of US officials before, mostly due to the fact that the Pirate Bay is operated by folks from Sweden. In fact, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) suggested that Sweden should be put on the watch list back in February, noting:

"Sweden is a notorious Internet piracy safe haven. Illegal file-sharing is widespread and growing, and there are a number of deficiencies in Sweden’s legal infrastructure and enforcement system."


The US Trade representative still seems to be worried about the Pirate Bay as well, reserving a special paragraph in the report for the Torrent site:

"Industry reports that PirateBay is one of the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker sites and a major global conduit for the unauthorized exchange of copyright-protected film and music files. PirateBay was raided by Swedish police in 2006, and the government initiated the prosecution of four Swedes associated with the site in January 2008, but the site has continued to operate, reportedly relying on servers located outside of Sweden."

Apparently the mere fact that there is a legal case going on against the owners of the site was enough to ease off and not put Sweden on the list. We'll see what the Trade Representative does if the site is still up next year around.

(via Patry)

04/28 2008 | 08:34 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Beet.tv recently interviewed Bittorrent CTO Eric Klinker about the company's cooperation with Comcast. The interview happened to be recorded on earth day, so Beet.tv's Andy Plesser also asked about the environmental impact of P2P. Klinker was very optimistic, saying that utilizing end user's PCs makes it possible to buy and run less servers. You can watch the complete interview below.

I'm personally not so sure if P2P is really that green. Sure, buying less servers and running less data centers sounds like a good idea, but oftentimes it's just much easier to clean up a centralized resource than a decentralized one.

Google is already working on plans for alternative energy-powered data centers, but it will be a long time until every single user can access green energy. Also, users that keep their PC running 24/7 in order to download and seed torrents just don't seem like the pioneers of a green computing movement to me, but maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?



04/27 2008 | 10:27 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Three strikes and you're offline: The controversial tactic to cut off the internet access of repreat infringers is getting new friends in high places in Germany these days. German Secretary of Culture Bernd Neumann suggested this week that his country should look to France for ideas to increase the enforcement of intellectual property. In his own words:

"We should support initiatives that result in voluntary agreements between internet service providers and rights holders with the goal to fight copyright infringement. This issue has been addressed by the Olivennes process initiated by French president Sarkozy, and it has already been discussed by the European Commission as well."

France was the first country that came up with a three strikes rule against file sharers. The idea has since been championed by the music industry across the globe, but the results have been less than satisfying for the record labels. Sweden flatly rejected the idea in March. The plan received another blow when the European Parliament rejected calls to adopt three in all member states. The parliament instead passed an amendment that reads:

"Calls on the Commission and the Member States to recognise that the Internet is a vast platform for cultural expression, access to knowledge, and democratic participation in European creativity, bringing generations together through the information society; calls on the Commission and the Member States, therefore, to avoid adopting measures conflicting with civil liberties and human rights and with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and dissuasiveness, such as the interruption of Internet access."


Conflicting with civil liberties and human rights: Can you word this any stronger? Judging from Neuman's statement, there's no warning strong enough.

04/26 2008 | 02:28 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
That's the title of a Business Week piece about Tanya Andersen, the woman who prevailed in a file sharing lawsuit brought forward against her by the music industry and who is now suing the RIAA to stop the P2P lawsuit machine. Great weekend read, especially if you haven't kept up with all the nitty-gritty of the thousands of lawsuits the industry has started against file sharers in recent years. Here's a quick teaser:

"(Tanya Andersen's lawyer Lory R.) Lybeck figures that with all the potential errors in IP addresses collected by MediaSentry, the RIAA has gone after thousands of innocent people. He thinks the addresses could be erroneous as often as 20% of the time, which would mean 8,000 people wrongly accused. He believes that many innocent people have been coerced into paying because they can't afford to fight the RIAA in court."


04/26 2008 | 08:09 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The porn industry is spreading its tentacle arms to fight off file sharers and other online pirates, according to a report of the adult biz website XBiz.com. Distributors of x-rated animation fare have founded an association called "The Animation Co-op Defense League" and started to send take-down notices to blogs and file sharing communities. Says XBiz:

"So far this year the group has successfully shut down a total of 10,738 infringers, including 5,006 movie file-sharing links, 2,123 picture file-sharing links and 3,609 blog posts."

I'm actually not too sure what picture file-sharing links are - links to zipped archives of comics maybe? Or links to multi-file torrents? At least it looks like I'm not the only one confused by all this new technology. XBiz quotes Defense League director Wendy Crawford with the following words:

"Every day we speak with websites, tube sites and affiliate programs, who have knowingly or unknowingly displayed content that they do not have the rights for."

Maybe Ted Stephens was right after all. The Internet is a series of tubes - and apparently they're full of pirated Japanese school girl panties.

04/25 2008 | 03:49 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Microsoft started a limited beta test for it's new Live Mesh service at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this week. PC World published a first review today, and may other outlets reported about Live Mesh as well. Live Mesh will essentially offer file synchronization and sharing services across different devices.

One aspect that I find intriguing is the road that led to Live Mesh. The service is based in part on Windows Live Foldershare, which is a direct heir of Audiogalaxy.

Just a quick historical note for the kids out there: Audiogalaxy used to be a great music swapping service that made Napster look pale in comparison, but it got sued out of existence by the RIAA in the summer of 2002. Audiogalaxy's founders used a lot of its features when they started Foldershare in 2002, which for obvious reasons didn't offer any global music search and indexing but instead concentrated on personal sharing and file synchronization.

Live Mesh could be really interesting for Microsoft because it could help the company to beat Google in an area that is growing in importance. Not only are we still waiting for Google's GDrive, but there's also a growing number of devices out there that need to be synched across networks.

04/22 2008 | 08:09 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Esquire's Chuck Klosterman has an interesting new take on the P2P blame game: Klosterman believes the credit card industry is responsible for the rise of music swapping. Why credit cards, you might ask? Because paying off plastic debt is where the money goes that we used to spend on music, says Klosterman. In his own words:

"What happened is this: Young people needed more money to pay for their rising levels of self-imposed debt, so they unconsciously gravitated toward the first technology that provided a cost-saving alternative. Because four-minute digital-song files are relatively small (and thus easily compressed), ripping tracks for free became the easiest way to eliminate an extraneous cost."

Nice idea, if only for the fact that it's something different. Of course it doesn't account for the generational changes in music consumption. Klosterman looks at his own generation and concludes that he and a lot of his friends have less money to spend or borrow than ten years ago.

But how many of today's file swapping teenagers have gotten themselves in financial trouble in the nineties? And how do you even amass thousands of dollars of debt by the age of seven? Primary school gambling? Ice cream shopping sprees? Too may fur bibs? Maybe Klosterman's theory needs some polishing, even if it sounds good:

"People stopped buying albums because they wanted the fucking money. It's complicated, but it's not."

But it is!

04/16 2008 | 11:36 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German parliament has ratified a new copyright extension aimed at fighting file sharing a few days ago. The law was supposed to make it easier for the entertainment industry to get the identities of file sharers, but it's unclear yet what the real effect on the country's millions of P2P users will be.

Rights holders will now be able to get a simple court order to force ISPs to give up their customers names, similar to what record companies are already doing in the US. Simple acts of infringement will however only result in a 100 Euro fine.

Germany's tough privacy laws and a recent court decision against data retention will also make it hard to get the names of infringers in time, since most ISPs are forced to erase such data within seven days. Finally, rights holders will have to front the costs of these lawsuits, making them much more expensive than previous enforcement actions.

German rights holders didn't have direct means to reveal the identities of file sharers up until now, which is why they initiated thousands of criminal cases, resulting in prosecutors sharing the names in question with them. Most of these criminal cases were dropped immediately, but record companies used the names to send of cease and desist letters, complete with cost notices ranging from a few hundred up to several thousand Euros, depending on the case and the lawyers involved.

A hand full of law offices send off tens of thousands of these letters in the matter of months, with some even resorting to bar codes to automate mass enforcement. Most recipients decided to pay up to forgo an even more expensive dragged-out lawsuit, and the money is usually split between rights holders, lawyers and P2P surveillance companies. The new 100 Euro rule and the additional costs for getting the names in question could put an end to this mass enforcement practice.

However, it's too early to celebrate for file sharers: The 100 Euro fine has only been put in place for acts infringement that are not reaching a "commercial level". There is no clear definition for this term, and some politicians even suggested that the mere fact of benefiting monetarily from file sharing because you don't have to buy an album or a DVD constitutes a commercial advantage.

Rights holders and internet advocates both predict that it ultimately will be up to the courts to decide what this law really means. Until then, users will probably just keep on sharing - and rights holders will have to decide if they want to keep up an increasingly expensive mass enforcement campaign.

04/15 2008 | 04:41 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Comcast said today it plans to create a “P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” in cooperation with P2P companies and other ISPs. The bill proposal is being co-spearheaded by Pando Networks, a company that recently made waves with its efforts to help ISPs with the impact P2P is having on their networks without throttling traffic. Comcast is also committing to test Pando’s technology and share those test results with the ISP community.

The bill itself is supposed to be a catalog of best-practice recommendations for P2P companies and ISPs alike, but the announcement was more than vague about what those recommendations might look like. It did mention that users should be able to “control their computers’ resources when using P2P applications,” but it didn’t specify which responsibilities and especially which rights Comcast wants to include for ISPs. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

04/14 2008 | 12:24 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It’s been a great week for the BBC’s iPlayer project: The Beeb has just announced that the iPlayer is now attracting 550,000 daily views on average. The iPlayer is also now officially available on the Wii, making it the first streaming service by a major broadcaster on any of the three consoles.

BBC Future Media and Technology Group Controller Eric Huggers explained that the broadcaster ended up choosing the Wii instead of the PS3 or XBox 360 because Sony and Microsoft had too many demands about the iPlayer implementation. “They want control of the look, the feel and the experience; they want it done within their shop, and their shop only,” he told the BBC’s own dot.life blog.

Playstation users apparently couldn’t care less about these conflicts. One of them just developed an unofficial iPlayer implementation for the PS3. His PS3iPlayer.com hack was made possible by the fact that the BBC has quietly abandoned streaming media DRM. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

04/11 2008 | 12:32 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
And you thought Comcast has had some tough couple of months: P2P filtering application maker Sandvine has posted a seven million dollar loss for its first quarter, reports Therecord.com:

"The Waterloo maker of internet traffic-routing technology saw its revenues fall 46 per cent in the quarter as its top U.S. customers delayed decisions to purchase Sandvine gear."

And why did companies delay their purchases? Sandvine CEO Dave Caputo believes that the trouble Comcast ran into when it started to block Bittorrent traffic has something to do with it, but he seems to be optimistic that the company can win back customers. The paper quotes him with the following words:

"We have had to have conversations with our customers . . . about traffic-management policies as they relate to the network neutrality debate. While these discussions have contributed to delays, we continue to believe that service providers will adopt technology like Sandvine's."

Of course there is another possibility why companies like Sandvine could be in trouble. Recent tests have shown that filtering P2P traffic just doesn't work that well.

04/08 2008 | 01:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
P2P Blog has been hit by a virus (no, not that kind), so thing will be a little quieter for now. Regular postings will hopefully resume in the next few days.

In the meantime I'd suggest you head over to the Princeton Center for Information Technology's online panel about Voluntary Collective Licensing, also known as that Warner Music plan to legalize P2P. It's basically a blog with posts from a bunch of very smart people including Ed Felten, Fred von Lohmann and Jon Healey all debating the pros and cons of collective licensing.

04/06 2008 | 02:54 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Hollywood has been stepping up its demands for ISP-based P2P filters in recent weeks, with the MPAA suggesting that such filters would help unclog the Internet’s tubes. But how well do P2P-filtering appliances really work? The French music industry association SNEP recently teamed up with Internet Evolution to find out. The idea was to run an extensive test with products from dozens of vendors and publish the results online so that ISPs could make informed decisions.

Well that was the idea. Most of the device manufactures balked at this degree this transparency — 28 vendors were invited to take part in the six-month test; 24 of them declined. And three of the remaining five decided that they didn’t agree with the test results and refused to have them published. So what’s the filtering industry so scared of? Maybe it’s the fact that its products just don’t work that well. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

04/04 2008 | 02:50 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
There probably have been slightly more accurate descriptions of the inner workings of BitTorrent, but this one, produced by Managed Networks, is charming nonetheless:



Now if the writing in the speech bubbles was only a tad bigger ...

04/03 2008 | 11:08 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Douglas Merrill left Google this week to become the president of EMI's digital group, and guess what: He still doesn't want to be evil. CNet talked to Merrill, and he told the news service that he believes piracy can be good for artists. Merill also spoke out against the industry's lawsuit strategy. CNet writer Greg Sandoval quotes him with the following words:

"Obviously, there is piracy that is quite destructive but again I think the data shows that in some cases file sharing might be okay. What we need to do is understand when is it good, when it is not good...Suing fans doesn't feel like a winning strategy."

Merrill also seems to be open to the idea of an ISP fee like the one proposed by Warner Music, and he said he was really impressed by Nine Inch Nails Ghost release. The band released its most recent opus Ghosts I-IV under the terms of a Creative Commons license and uploaded nine songs to The Pirate Bay. Merrill's comment:

"I think the Nine Inch Nails' release of Ghosts experiment was fascinating."

04/03 2008 | 12:08 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Do your torrent downloads seem to be taking longer than usual? Are you trying to transfer, say, a home video to a friend via Pando and the upload keeps getting stuck? Or maybe you’re having problems with BitTorrent’s new streaming service, which just doesn’t seem to work on your system? There’s a good chance your ISP is at fault, as more and more providers are putting the brakes on BitTorrent these days.

Though Comcast was the first to make headlines with its anti-P2P policy, a bunch of other ISPs in the U.S. and elsewhere are throttling BitTorrent traffic as well. Take, for example, Bell Canada, or Germany’s Kabel Deutschland. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to tell if your ISP is one of the bad guys — we’ve pulled together five tests that will do it for you. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

04/02 2008 | 05:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
When people talk about slowing down Bittorrent downloads, they are usually thinking about folks downloading dozens of movies from The Pirate Bay. Of course, Bittorrent isn't exclusively used for piracy anymore, and it's not limited to torrent distribution either. Many personal file sharing sevices actually use Bittorrent to P2P-power their clients, and Bittorrent is increasingly used for streaming video and audio data.

But there's another untold story about Bittorrent throttling: Sometimes it even affects services that aren't using the Bittorrent protocol. Case in point: The screen sharing service company Glance Networks noticed an increase of customer complaints from Canada a few years back.

The company investigated these complaints - and figured out that they were all coming from users of ISPs that were throttling Bittorrent traffic. Glane Networks CEO Rich Baker recently worte about this experience on the XConomy Blog:

"While we were working the problem, customers were understandably stuck wondering who was telling them the truth. Their ISP was saying “all is well” and that “nothing has changed”, both of which turned out to be wrong. But how were they to know? Their other Web traffic flowed normally. From their perspective, only our service had slowed."

Glance Networks was able to restore access to he service by tweaking a few parameters, but the company nevertheless wants to make sure this doesn't happen again. It recently submitted comments to the FCC that call for net neutrality regulation. Here's a brief excerpt:

"It's as if all the good, wide paved roads went only to Wal-Mart and to McDonald's. As if new and small businesses were only served by narrow dirt roads. It's allowing a competitive disadvantage in a near-monopoly infrastructure that should support the entire economy of today and the future."


04/01 2008 | 12:05 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Berklee College of Music, M-Audio, Digidesign and others have donated more than eight Gigabyte of sound samples to the OLPC project, which in turn is now sharing these samples with the community under the terms of a Creative Commons license. From the Creative Commons blog:

"The samples are being released under a CC BY license and while they are intended for (and facilitated by) the OLPC project, they are available publicly, making this a a huge contribution not only to the OLPC but also to those looking for free, high quality, samples in general."

Interest in the samples seems to be huge: The OLPC Wiki is reporting that the project has transmitted 5TB per day since the sound files have been made available last week. The OLPC foks are now looking for a better server.

Until then, it's Bittorrent to the rescue: A substantial subset of the samples has been made available via Mininova and the Pirate Bay tracker in the form of a fat 4.3 GB torrent.