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07/30 2008 | 10:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Adult video companies are stepping up the fight against online piracy, but lawsuits against individuals swapping dirty videos via P2P no longer seem to be at the top of their list. Jason Tucker, head of a new anti-piracy company dedicated to adult content called The PAK Group, recently told the industry web site XBIZ (not safe for work) that lawsuits against individuals “require ridiculous amounts of resources” and are unlikely to have a huge impact.

Tucker wants to concentrate on adult video-sharing sites instead. He told XBiz that his company is close to filing a lawsuit against one of these red-light versions of YouTube, and that other lawsuits could follow soon after. This isn’t the first time these sites have been targeted by the adult industry. Industry heavyweight Vivid sued PornoTube in December of 2007. While the lawsuit was often compared to Viacom suing Google, Tucker made clear that for the adult entertainment space, these lawsuits are hitting much closer to home: “The big problem I see right now is not outsiders doing this; rather, it is people who purport to be contributing members in our industry,” he told XBIZ. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/30 2008 | 03:35 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Well, everyone in the English-speaking world, that is. Users from the United States, the UK, Australia and New Zealand can now sign up for Microsoft's P2P service without waiting. Residents of other countries have to fake their place of residence wait a little longer, but will be notified as soon as the service is available in their country, according to the Live Mesh blog.

Live Mesh, which is still in its Tech Preview stage, is a service that synchronizes data across multiple devices and that includes onlie storage and private file sharing. Live Mesh is Windows-only so far, but a mac version should be available any day now.

07/29 2008 | 01:34 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Ted "a series of tubes" Stephens got indicted on charges of making false statements in a corruption investigation today. At the heart of the investigation are gifts from an oil company that were used to revamp Stephens's vacation home, according to the LA Times.

Stephens is know as the longest-serving Republican senator, but he only got famous online two years ago when he described the Internet as "a series of tubes" in a confused anti-net-neutrality rant.

I thought it might be interesting to check who else gave money to Stephens over the years. OpenSecrets reveals that Stephens has been number five on the list of top recipients of the telephone industries, getting a total of 41,400 dollars. He was on spot number six when he made his tubes remarks in 2006, but trailed on spot 17 back in the 2004 election cycle.

One should of course note that these were legal contributions, whereas the donations at the center of the indictment weren't properly reported. Also, to be fair and non-partisan for once, here are the top three recipients in the US Senate of telco dollars: John McCain ($365,955), Hillary Clinton ($246,747) and Barack Obama ($220,789).

07/25 2008 | 07:13 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
European and Australian researchers want to build a giant P2P network on the basis of TV set-top boxes, Computerworld Australia reported this week. The so-called Nanodatacenters project is based on the idea that you don’t need giant data centers as long as you have increasingly powerful devices in millions of living rooms, capable of doing so much more than suffering through all those Law & Order re-runs.

Nanodatacenters is part of the FP7 research program, which is funded by the EU to the tune of several billion euros per year and covers everything from advances in agriculture to space programs. Nanodatacenter’s goals are also rather broad. A researcher told Computerworld that the set-top box network could be used to power anything from a Flickr-type of service to an online gaming platform. Of course, there are also interesting use cases for online video, ranging from HD delivery to huge, decentralized libraries of on-demand content. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.


07/25 2008 | 12:54 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Pirate Bay folks have once again replaced their regular site logo with a special "doodle", this time celebrating the leak of the Batman movie The Dark Knight.

pirate bay doodle

Warner Bros. successfully prevented pre-release leaks of the Dark Knight, which brought in an estimated 158.3 million USD on its first weekend. A cam version of the movie found its way onto the net one day after opening.

07/24 2008 | 10:26 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
AOL has announced that it will shut down its web-based storage and file sharing platform XDrive. Techcrunch is reporting that the Internet giant decided to rid itself of XDrive because of its simply to costly and not easily monetizable through advertising. The blog has an email from AOL EVP Kevin Conroy, who amongst other things writes:

"To effectively grow the XDrive online storage business we would need to focus on subscription revenues vs. monetizing through advertising revenue, and this business model is not in strategic alignment with our company’s goals."


Conroy says users will be given the option to migrate their data to other platforms, which could be good news for online storage companies like Box.net. Of course, it doesn't solve a general problem of personal storage and file sharing platforms: They're hard to monetize - a lesson that Allpeers, Tubesnow and a few others have already learned the hard way.

AOL will also be shutting down the image hosting service AOL Pictures and Bluestring.com, a personal media sharing platform that only launched some seven months ago and that I personally had never even heard of. Writes Conroy:

"These consumer storage products haven’t gained sufficient traction in the marketplace or the monetization levels necessary to offset the high cost of their operation."


Update: Box.net is now offering an automatic backup tool for XDrive users.

07/24 2008 | 01:45 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The EU-funded P2P Next project has been beta testing a new open source streaming solution since late last week, streaming both a live webcam transmission and an archived video from the BBC through its BitTorrent-based SwarmPlayer. I had a chance to check in with P2P Next’s scientific director, Johan Pouwelse, today about the progress of the test. “(It’s been) positive beyond our expectations,” he told me, adding that more than 4,000 users have installed the latest beta version of SwarmPlayer.

Of course SwarmPlayer isn’t the only effort to utilize P2P for streaming video. In fact, hardly a week goes by without some startup pitching a new P2P streaming solution to us. These companies should pay close attention to P2P Next, not only because the project has €14 million to develop an open source streaming alternative, but also because broadcasters from the BBC to Germany’s ARD just seem to love the idea of ditching their proprietary platforms. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/23 2008 | 09:34 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Looks like the folks from the Pirate Bay aren't the only ones that want to secure P2P through encryption: Two developers by the names of Rich Jones and John Schanck have been working on a new P2P protocol that combines encryption with a degree of anonymity.

anomos logo

The Anomos protocol is based on Bittorrent, but it enhances the popular P2P protocol with end to end encryption and a routing mix network, meaning that data packets are routed through a number of relays before finally reaching their destination. The duo used the recent HOPE conference for a first public presentation. You can watch a somewhat non-technical video with a way to long pre-roll ad about the project below.



The Anomos website features a more technical overview of Anomos. There's no code pre-compiled binary (see comments for clarification) to download yet, but the Anomos developers are promising a working alpha client for the next couple of weeks.

07/23 2008 | 11:04 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Germany's prosecutors are looking for ways to deal with the flood of mass-lawsuits that have targeted tens of thousands of the country's file sharers in recent years. The German IT news website heise.de is reporting that Germany's top prosecutors are working on a set of guidelines that would bring relief to the vast majority of targeted P2P users.

The guidelines apparently include ignoring all lawsuits that aren't reaching a "commercial level" of infringement. The definition of this commercial level of infringement is still unclear. Most likely, it won't just be about people making money , but also users gaining a substantial monetary advantage by downloading a large amount of files. There are some rumors saying that everyone offering more than a hundred files for download reaches this level, but heise is also reporting about a different interpretation that would only count a collection of files worth more than 2000 Euros as commercial, with each MP3 valued at one Euro.

Either way, guidelines like these would likely take away the basis for a vast majority of lawsuits against P2P users in Germany, where a hand full of local law offices has been targeting users for as little as one shared file. It could also spell trouble for companies like Swiss-based Logistep, which has been supplying many of these lawyers with evidence to conduct their mass lawsuit campaigns.

07/22 2008 | 11:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The EU commission recently decided to extend EU copyright law for sound recordings from 50 to 95 years. The proposed term extension still has to be ratified by the European parliament, and resistance against these plans is growing.

17 experts on copyright law from such distinguished institutions like the Max-Planck-Institute for Intellectual Property and the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute published a joint editorial in the UK's Times this week, warning of the grave consequences such an extension could have. From the editorial:

"The proposed Term Extension Directive undermines the credibility of the copyright system. It will further alienate a younger generation that, justifiably, fails to see a principled basis.

Many of us sympathise with the financial difficulties that aspiring performers face. However, measures to benefit performers would look rather different. They would target unreasonably exploitative contracts during the existing term, and evaluate remuneration during the performer’s lifetime, not 95 years. "


They didn't quite say it - but am I the only one who reads a reference to file sharing between the lines here? Either way, the whole editorial is definitely worth reading.

(via Arbeit 2.0)

07/22 2008 | 08:08 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Three strikes and you're out: That's the idea of a controversial policy that aims to put ISPs in the role of copyright enforcers and permanently disconnect file sharers. Three strikes has been under intense debate in Europe - but how would such a policy look like if implemented?

pic of roadrunner message
A message from Road Runner, and no way to talk back: Copyright enforcement via splash screen.


According to reports on Keithandthegirl.com, Time Warner's Road Runner ISP seems to have an automated copyright enforcement mechanism in place that gives us a pretty good idea how three strikes would be enforced by an ISP: Road Runner apparently sends out a warning email the first time it receives a C&D notice regarding the sharing of supposedly infringing content. The second time it just replaces your regular browser start page with a splash screen featuring a copyright notice, that among other things states:

"Road Runner Customer Care is sending you this notice because we have received a complaint from a content owner that your computer has been used to distribute copyrighted material (music, movies, computer software and/or television programs) without authorization through a peer-to-peer program."

The customer then has to acknowledge his wrongdoings by clicking on a link that states that he is "aware of this issue and will take steps to resolve it." There is no obvious way to contest the alleged infringement - in fact, customers won't even get access to the web if they don't click on the link.

To be fair, the Road Runner's third strike doesn't involve a lifelong ban from the Internet, as proposed by some European politicians. Repeat offenders simply have to ask for absolution from a call center representative. Still, the fact that there is no obvious recourse seems troubling.

07/21 2008 | 03:57 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Pando- and Verizon-backed P4P approach to optimizing P2P traffic for ISPs and downloaders alike might be a big hit with some access providers, but many file sharers are still skeptical.

Maybe this will change once the Internet Engineering Task Force, or short IETF, is going to get involved with these efforts. P4P proponents are planing to make their case at the 72nd IETF Meeting in Dublin at the end of July, with two so-called "Birds of a feather" meet-ups being scheduled to address Techniques for Advanced Networking Applications and Application-Layer Traffic Optimization.

The idea to get the IETF involved is not new. Pando CTO Laird Popkin told me a few months back that the IETF could be a good non-profit to run the iTracker servers in a P4P environment to make sure that privacy concerns are addressed. The draft statements written for the IETF meeting also go out of their way to address any concerns that P4P-like technology could be used to control file sharing. From the ALTO draft:

"However, ALTO is completely optional for P2P applications and its purpose is to help improve performance of such applications. If, for some reason, it fails to achieve this purpose, it would simply fail to gain popularity and would not be used.

Even in cases where the ALTO service provider would decide to maliciously alter results returned by queries only after the solution has gained popularity (i.e. it behaves for a while to become popular and then starts misbehaving), it would be fairly easy for P2P application maintainers and users to revert to solutions that are not using it."


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07/20 2008 | 11:47 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Pacific Epoch is reporting rumors today that the Chinese P2P company Xunlei is in talks with U.S. venture capital companies to raise a final round of $100 million. Xunlei had previously secured a total of $30 million in funding, with an estimated $5 million coming out of Google’s check book. An IPO is planed for later this year, according to Pacific Epoch.

Xunlei isn’t the only Chinese P2P company raking in big bucks these days, and we’re not just talking about VC play money, either. The Chinese market research company iResearch is reporting that P2P companies like PPLive and PPStream are attracting an increasing amount of advertising dollars. The growing revenue goes along with tons of users watching thousands of video streams. Maybe Joost and others should take a look at China to see how to make money with P2P video. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/18 2008 | 04:05 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
BigChampagne has been in the news frequently over the years, and the idea to use P2P usage data to facilitate media marketing efforts isn't all that new either. Up until now it wasn't too clear who is actually making use of these measurements though, since most mainstream media companies were a little shy to admit that they actually rely on piracy.

Looks like this has finally changed. The Economist just published a story that reveals a hand full of BigChampagne customers, with Hulu apparently being one of them. From the article:

"Hulu, a website operated by News Corporation that offers free, advertising-supported video-streaming, already uses file-sharing statistics to design its programming and to set advertising rates."

Hulu is of course a joint venture of News Corporation and NBC Universal. Yes, you got that right - that's the same NBC Universal that has previously claimed that P2P is the root of all evil.

07/17 2008 | 05:53 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The makers of the secure file-sharing / backup solution Wua.la announced today that they're opening up their application for a public beta on August 14th. The new beta will not only make invite codes obsolete, but also include a web-based component. From the Wua.la newsletter:

"After August 14, Wuala can be started directly from the web, no software installation required anymore. You can still install it on your desktop if you like, but you can also access it on computers where you can't install."


The service will also feature embedding options for social networks - something I've been wanting to see ever since I first tried it out back in October of 07. Maybe Wua.la will finally become the secure and distributed data storage solution for the social graph I've been looking for ...

It's unlcear yet how exactly Wua.la will offer Web-based storage. The service has been relying on users opening up their hard drives in exchange for secure storage space in the cloud up until now, but this has always been subsidized with some server-based storage. I wouldn't be too surprised at all to see S3 doing the heavy lifting once Wua.la unveils the new offering.

07/15 2008 | 01:43 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
This is pretty cool: Some folks in the Netherlands have developed a cheap device that can be used to broadcast and also relay FM radio signals. Set up one of these, and you'll have a personal FM radio station in your house. Spread them to your neighbors, and you'll be able to cover the whole block through lo-fi P2P meshing.


(via Makezine)

07/14 2008 | 02:43 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Here we go again: NY State attorney Andrew Cuomo has managed to get two more ISPs to join his "Crusade" (his choice of words, not mine) against Usenet child porn. AOL and agreed have agreed to "stop major sources of child pronography", as the press release reads.

Now here's where it gets interesting: AOL apparently has agreed to do something it already has done years ago, as Declan McCullagh reports over at CNet. The online service shut down its Usenet offerings back in early 2005.

AT&T subscribers will feel more substantial changes related to the Cuomo crack-down. Here's a brief statement from the AT&T website:

"AT&T takes its obligation to protect its customers from child pornography very seriously. We're working with public officials and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the effort to help prevent the distribution of this harmful and illegal content.

We'll continue to provide access to newsgroups as part of our broadband offering, but we'll no longer include alt.bin* nor alt.bain* hierarchies because of the possibility of child pornography in those particular groups and the difficulty in ensuring that no child porn reappears in them."


There is a very interesting discussion going on over at DSLReports.com that features some quotes attributed to a AT&T newsgroup admin which were apparently taken from an AT&T newsgroup. Here's one example:

"There was and still is a group of people on the inside fighting this decision. Unfortunately, we just got outplayed from a poliitical standpoint. The game is still not over yet though."


The same is unfortunately true for other ISPs that still carry newsgorups, such as Earthlink. Cuomo has created a website for citizens to email ISPs and demand AT&T-like steps - maybe it's time that Usenet users start their own letter-writing campaign?

07/12 2008 | 05:30 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The makers of the BitTorent client / media distribution platform Vuze have expressed optimism about Kevin Martin's plans to punish Comcast for its BitTorrent blocking, but at the same time vowed to continue their own push for clearer FCC rules against network discrimination. Vuze Generan Counsel Jay Monahan told me yesterday that he sees Martin's punishment proposal as a "very significant first step". Vuze CEO Gilles BianRosa agreed: "This is a milestone because it shows that there are boundaries", he told me.

Monahan warned to be too optimistic about the outcome though. He pointed out that the commission still has to vote on Martin's proposal, and that its unclear yet what kind of punishments this ruling will contain. Monahan also believes that Comcast will immediately appeal any ruling by the commission and argue that the FCC doesn't have the authority to regulate network management - a point that has been hotly contested in the past.

These uncertainties are the reason that Vuze continues with its own efforts to get the FCC on its side. The company filed its petition for rule making with the commission back in November of 2007. The petition wasn't specifically targeting Comcast's interference, but instead asked for broader regulations from the commission that would ensure punishments for ISPs that try to discriminate against certain applications or protocols. Rules like these would provide "an appropriate chilling effect on bad behaviour", Monahan told me.

So what's the status of Vuze's petition? It's moving along, albeit a little slower than the complaints from Free Press and other consumer advocacy groups that led to Martin's initiative. Writing new rules that are going to affect an entire industry just takes a tad longer than punishing a single company for its wrongdoings. Monahan expects that the commission probably won't decide on it before the next administration is in office.

07/11 2008 | 09:16 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
FCC chairman Kevin Martin has finally decided that he’s had it with Comcast’s BitTorrent blocking. As the AP first reported last night, Martin has drafted an order to punish the cable giant for its “arbitrary” interference with its customers’ Internet access. The draft will be sent to Martin’s fellow commissioners today, and the commission will cast a vote on Aug. 1st. Comcast has denied the accusation, as Stacey is reporting on GigaOM, calling its network management efforts “carefully limited.”

Others obviously disagree. The media reform group Free Press, whose complaint prompted the FCC’s investigation, applauded Martin’s decision, saying that consumers were “poised for victory.” The group also called the development an “historic test” of the FCC’s Net Neutrality guidelines. That’s at least one point on which Free Press and Comcast seem to agree, with the cable giant complaining in its statement that the FCC had “never before provided any guidance on what it means by ‘reasonable network management.’” Apparently this really is history in the making — so let’s take a look back and see how it all came about. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/10 2008 | 11:27 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Looks like the IFPI won't be alone in demanding a more proactive stance against piracy from ISPs (read: filtering and kicking off infringers) for long. Demands to confront Internet providers also came up at a recent anti-piracy round table of the porn industry's Free Speech Coalition, according to industry mag XBiz.

Michel Lozier from the streaming porn site operator Sureflixx told XBiz that he's seeing recent developments in Europe as a sign for a changing tide. The article quotes him with the following words:

"When we talk about the pirates, we’re not talking just about the person doing the copy. (...) This will have long-term repercussions on the cable companies and Internet service providers, who are all, at the moment, hiding this notion that they are just the highway and they don’t have anything to do with piracy."

Some porn producers have been talking about getting more involved with the political fight to dismantle the DMCA in recent months. The porn industry traditionally doesn't have much of a clout in Washington, but they could find some unsual bed fellows this time around with the argument that pirated porn is also accessible to viewers under the age of 18.

However, it doesn't seem like everyone is on board with this. The XBiz article ntes that many producers apparently feel like they don't have to fight piracy now because the online environment will still change a lot on the years to come, which mihgth be one reason why the round table "drew a light audience", according to XBiz.

07/09 2008 | 06:01 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Regular readers of this blog probably know that I've been pretty enthusiastic about the latest incarnation of Azureus / Vuze. I got to test the client before it launched wiht a bunch of new features a few weeks back, and wrote in a review for NewTeeVee that " Vuze.com has a winner" with the new client "(if) it makes the social features just a little less autistic."

Maybe I was a little too optimistic about these social features. I got a good reality check from the Vuze folks themselves this week when they sent me an email announcing that I had just won a T-Shirt:

"To help celebrate and encourage our community to participate, we launched a "Make New Friends Competition - Win a Limited Edition Vuze T-Shirt" contest. We were looking for the top 50 Vuze users with the most Friends, and you have made the cut!"

The sad thing about this is the fact that I have a total of five friends on Vuze that I added when I tested the client. Four of them are Vuze.com staffers, and the fifth one is a second account opened by myself.

To be fair: Most users of social networks also don't have many more friends. In fact, the median number of friends on Myspace is two, while the average number is 55 , according to Clay Shirky's latest book Here Comes Everybody - and those numbers even include all he people who are "friends" with Tila Tequila.

Still, being able to become one of the 50 most popular users with five friends that aren't even my real friends - that clearly shows that Vuze still has some work to do.

07/09 2008 | 12:42 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The team behind the popular torrent site The Pirate Bay has started to work on a new encryption technology that could potentially protect all Internet traffic from prying eyes. The project, which is still in its initial stages, goes by the name “Transparent end-to-end encryption for the Internets,” or IPETEE for short. It tackles encryption not on the application level, but on the network level, the aim being that all data exchanged on your PC would be encrypted, regardless of its nature — be it a web browser streaming video files or an instant messaging client. As Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij (a.k.a. Tiamo) told me, “Even applications that don’t supporting encryption will be encrypted where possible.”

Neij came up with the idea for IPETEE back when European politicians were starting to debate a Europe-wide move to DMCA-like copyright enforcement efforts, which were eventually authorized in the form of the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive in the spring of 2007. “I wanted to come up with something to make it harder for data retention,” said Neij. But he didn’t publish the initial draft proposal until early this month, when the discussion about privacy and surveillance online suddenly became urgent again. The Swedish parliament passed a new law in June that allows a local government agency to snoop on “the telephony, emails, and web traffic of millions of innocent individuals,” as the EFF’s Danny O’Brien put it. Neij promises that his new encryption scheme will be ready before the law takes effect next January. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/08 2008 | 03:44 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
German Internet users can now read up on the security and legality of their online behavior, thanks to a new 76 page PDF published by a police-run crime prevention program. The reader with the very metaphoric title "In the web of new media" touches issues like media competence (don't trust everything you read online), protection of minors online and intellectual property rights.

Educators, parents and young surfers themselves are told that the use of file sharing systems is in most cases illegal. Warnings like these are usually accompanied by references to legal download stores like iTunes, but not in this case. Instead, reader features this recommendation:

"Use software programs that make it possible to record songs from Internet radios. There are also lots of bands that give music away for free on their web sites."

That's probably not quite the advice the local music industry would have hoped for, but the police is of course right: Downloading content from "obviously illegal sources", like most file sharing networks, is illegal in Germany, ripping online radio streams however is perfectly legal.

(via Arbeit 2.0)

07/08 2008 | 11:34 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
You know something goes mainstream when your local discount clothing store suddenly carries t-shirts about it in its "humor" section. First it was Cannabis, then being a sexually active woman - and now it's file sharing:

pic of music pirate t-shirt

07/07 2008 | 12:59 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Sourceforge has launched the voting phase for its Community Choice Awards, and chances are good that P2P applications like Azureus / Vuze and Emule will attract quite a few votes. In fact, the open source hosting provider even has a special category entirely dedicated to file sharing and similar controversial applications: Most Likely to Get Users Sued features, among others, the file swapping clients Azureus / Vuze, DC++, Emule and Shareaza.

But P2P isn't just honored for attracting lawsuits. Azureus / Vuze is also part of the category "Most Likely to Be the Next $1B Acquisition", whereas Emule is also part of "Most Likely to Be Accused of Patent Violation".

P2P has always played a big role on Sourceforge. Emule and Azureus have been at the top of the Sourceforge download charts for a long time, and both applications also won at last year's community awards. Emule was honored as "best new project" in 2007, whereas Azureus received award for being "the project most likely to accept your patches and value your input".

07/05 2008 | 01:13 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Feeling a little bored during this long weekend? Fireworks, barbecue and HD TV shopping trips haven’t left you satisfied? Then how about a few juicy statistics about file sharing, video streaming and one click hosters? Sounds exciting? Well, you’re definitely a geek, but a lucky one too: The German traffic management company Ipoque just made it’s Internet Study 2007, which previously cost around 300 USD, available as a free download.

The study looks at popular P2P protocols and the files that are exchanged through them in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It also provides a detailed look at which streaming media formats are popular, which VOIP applications get the most traffic, which instant messaging services are most utilized and which e-books are the most pirated.

The data is based on ISP- and University-based traffic analysis, meaning that Ipoque actually had devices at 18 commercial and non-commercial access providers to take a good look at the bits flowing through their tubes. Ipoque didn’t do any measurements in the US, but it’s still worth a look to get a sense of trends in P2P and online media usage in the rest of the world. Want to get a peak? Okay, here are five little-known facts you can impress your geek friends at this weekend’s barbecue party with: Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/04 2008 | 02:38 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Gizmodo is running an interesting post today about ways Tivo could improve it's somewhat dated device. First point on their list:

"Use BitTorrent to download shows legally. (...) Why not have TiVo centrally record a show, then let you torrent it out, complete with commercials, if you happen to miss recording it yourself? The ads keep the studios happy, and the fact that you get to watch a show keeps you happy."

I'm not really sure studios would be that happy about these central databases of copyrighted works - that's basically the same thing that brought MP3.com down back in 2001. Still, file swapping through your Tivo sounds like an interesting idea, and Tivo is definitely in need of some upgrades

By the way, I wrote my own Tivo features wish list a while back for Newteevee. I still like all of those ideas, but what lately really want is an easy way to control my Tivo through a notebook that's on the same home network. Entering text with the Tivo remote is just painful. That didn't use to matter much when it was just about finding a show every now and then, but new services like Rhapsody on Tivo are basically unusable without a proper input device.

Sure, Tivo could release branded keyboards, but most of the time I already have a keyboard on my lap. So why not just let me play with the Tivo menus on my notebook?

07/02 2008 | 11:16 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
File sharing has unfortunately attracted all kinds of scams over the years. One common way to get money from unsuspecting users is to set up bogus websites for P2P services that charge good money for membership plans and then offer little more than access to freely available applications.

A company targeting the German market is now trying to pull of a twist in this old scam that tops everything we've seen before. Fastload.tv charges its customers more than 80 Euros (almost 130 USD) to access their file swapping service for a year - and then sends them letters threatening to send their name to German prosecutors. That is unless they pay the company another 340 Euro (about 540 USD), according to a report of the German online magazine netzwelt.de.

pic of fastload letter
From the letter Fastload sent to one of its customers. Check out the original article for a complete copy.

Netzwelt was able to get a copy of one of these extortion letters from one of the Fastload customers. The letter states:

"Fastload anonymizes all IP addresses, which means the prosecutor won't be able to get your data without our help. (...) We won't transmit the data as long as the damages are paid for and we receive a signed note from you to cease and desist."


The letter also explains that the customers have to pay for, among other things, 140 Euros of translation costs. Fastload supposedly operates from Slovakia, even though the head of the company resides in Germany. Netzwelt spoke to a German lawyer who had multiple clients that were targeted by Fastload - with the very same letter, making the translation argument more than dubious.

Netzwelt also talked to other lawyers as well as consumer advocates who all had heard of the Fastload scheme, which means the company is probably targeting hundreds, if not thousands of German P2P users with its extortion attempt. Lawyers and consumer advocates alike recommended the same course of action: Don't pay and don't sign anything - the claims are more than dubious.

07/01 2008 | 09:48 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
John August, director of The Nines, has just published a lengthy article about his experience with the indie movie, including its Sundance screening, BitTorrent and the competitive art-house film scene. August made his name as a screenwriter for movies like Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Nines was August’s directorial debut — and an unexpectedly significant learning experience. “The release of the movie was deeply disappointing,” he writes.

He would absolutely do the movie again, he says, except that this time he’d just upload the whole thing onto P2P networks himself. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

07/01 2008 | 08:27 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Chronicle of Higher Education features an interesting article about textbook piracy today. The essence of the article is hardly surprising: More and more textbooks get scanned and swapped online. Some people trade textbooks on torrent sites, others use Scribd, which apparently is only getting one single DMCA take-down notice per day so far - an actually surprisingly low number.

Still, many publishers have started to scour the net for infringing copies and send out take-down notices. Also no surprise there. There are apparently no plans yet to sue textbook-sapping college students, and site administrators have nothing to fear from the textbook publishing industry yet either, according to the article. But there still could be some unintended victims in the fight against textbook piracy. From the article:

"If the problem worsens, publishers may have to take other steps to prevent piracy, such as releasing a new version of most textbooks every semester. The versions could include slight modifications that could be changed easily—such as altering the numbers in math problems."

A new edition for every semester: That might work to slow down piracy initially, but it would also destroy a huge second-hand book market, ranging all the way from the used book section in your local University book shop to websites for swapping physical textbooks. It would essentially raise the price students would have to pay on average for their books - and as such give them another incentive to just get their copy on Scribd.

How about fighting piracy with open textbooks instead?