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08/30 2008 | 06:52 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
One of the problems with Comcast’s new 250 GB bandwidth cap is that, as Om points out on GigaOM, it’s metered without a meter. Comcast doesn’t provide you with a central tally of all your data use. The company instead suggests its customers install bandwidth metering software on their machines and then add up the numbers. Its FAQ reads: “Customers using multiple PCs should just be aware that they will need to measure and combine their total monthly usage in order to identify the data usage for their entire account.” Got multiple home machines consuming data every day? Better bust out that spreadsheet — and get ready for some wild guesstimates. After all, you can’t just install a bandwidth metering application on your Slingbox.

The Slingbox is only one example of why the absence of a central bandwidth meter for your account is not inconvenient, but a central flaw in Comcast’s cap. More and more devices are bringing video to the living room, in turn consuming huge amounts of bandwidth. Most of them are not computers, but home entertainment devices with simplified interfaces that don’t burden their users with complicated stats and settings. That makes for a good user experience — unless you’re a Comcast customer that’s already using a lot of data and the box in your living room is busting your bandwidth-capped behind. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

08/28 2008 | 01:49 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Digital music vendor Napster has confirmed today that it will phase out its university subscription program that gave students subsidized access to Napster's music subscription service as part of their tuition fees. The company said in a statement sent to P2P Blog that it will continue to maintain the program at a small number of schools, but not renew any contracts and not look for any new partners in higher education. From the statement:

"(T)his program is not a focus of Napster's core strategy nor is it a significant source of revenue for the company. We have only a couple of thousand university subscribers."

That's a stark contrast to the spirit in which the program was launched back in 2003 and 2004. Napster executives repeatedly called the idea of subsidized campus subscriptions "groundbreaking" back then, and Napster CEO Chris Gorog had this to say in a press release in December of 04:

"It is extremely rewarding to have the academic community share our dedication to providing a safe and fun means of discovering music. We are thrilled to bring Napster to a growing number of passionate music fans at campuses across the country."

Napster hasn't exactly been doing great lately, losing subscribers by the tens of thousands and money by the millions. Both didn't really help with Wall Street, where Napster now trades for "a little less than the cash it has on its books," as Rags Gupta put it on GigaOm today. Napster had about 45,000 university subscribers in Q1 of 07, which appears to be the last time the company referenced these numbers separately from its regular subscribers.

08/28 2008 | 11:40 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Swiss scientists have discovered that children above a certain age are driven by both genes and social factors to share with others even if they don't have to. The Associated Press reported this week that the scientists gave kids in different age ranges tasks to divide candy amongst each others.

Three and four year olds were always trying to keep all the candy for themselves, but seven-to-eight year olds were trying to share fairly with others most of the time, even if that meant getting less candy for themselves. From the article:

"The study, published in the British journal Nature, could help explain how humans developed the ability to cooperate in large groups of individuals who are unrelated, the researchers say."

To be fair, the AP article doesn't mention file sharing at all, and I doubt the actual study does - but it still soundds like a perfect explanation for the dynamics on P2P networks to me. The study even confirmed that nobody likes leechers:

"But generosity had its limits. (...) (T)he older children were reluctant to let their counterpart have twice as (much candy) as themselves."

08/28 2008 | 10:28 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Olympics are over, and it’s time for a final medal count. No, we’re not talking about Michael Phelps here, nor about the fact that the Chinese got more gold medals than everyone else. Instead, we’re gonna take one last look at where people went to watch the Olympics online.

First the good news for NBC: NBCOlympics.com served a total of 75.5 million streams during the games despite all the uproar about Silverlight, tape delays and a bad UI. The site clocked a total of 9.9 million hours of online video coverage. That’s impressive, even if NBC’s online video advertising revenue wasn’t, but there are plenty of other success stories all around the globe. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

08/27 2008 | 04:26 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Democrats are nominating Barack Obama as their presidential candidate while I'm writing these lines, and the Republicans will follow up with John McCain next week. Much has been said about the candidate's tech policies, and even more fun has been made of the fact that one of them can't use a computer - but how popular are they with the P2P crowd?



I decided to find out b searching for torrents related to the candidates on Mininova. And guess what? Barack Obama had the upper hand, at least when it comes to the number of torrents. 34 downloads were directly related to the democratic candidate. McCain on the other hand only has 14 torrents related to him up on the internets.

Of course, the fact that a file features your name doesn't necessarily translate into any kind of approval. In fact, one of Barack's files with the most seeders is the audio version of the book "The Case Against Barack Obama", and two others promise damaging material about the candidate. Most of the torrents featuring Obama's name seem to be supportive though. Users have distributed a number of his speeches as well as audio version of his books through Bittorrent.

That's in stark contrast to McCain, of whom you won't find a single speech on Mininova. Instead, most files seem to be excerpts from TV shows where he appeared alongside Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart or David Letterman.

Finally, there is at least one indicator how some people in the P2P scene feel about he two candidates. Someone recently dedicated a release of an epsiode of Battlestar Galactica to Obama. Kind of makes you wonder which show would be appropriate for McCain, doesn't it?

08/26 2008 | 11:40 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Ever searched for a message from a Facebook contact? Chances are that your search was carried out against a huge cluster of distributed indexes, stored on more than 600 servers in a way that resembles the architecture of P2P networks. Facebook is using its own distributed storage system called Cassandra for these searches, and Cassandra's co-developer Avinash Lakshman shared a few observations about the system on Facebook this week. From his article:

"Reliability at massive scale is a very big challenge. Outages in the service can have significant negative impact. Hence Cassandra aims to run on top of an infrastructure of hundreds of nodes (possibly spread across different datacenters)."

Cassandra is an open source project, with the source being available on Google Code. To be fair, Facebook isn't the only one utilizing distributed architectures for its data storage. Google has been running similar systems internally for a long time, and Yahoo has developed an open source framework for distributed computing and data storage called Hadoop that's quickly gaining influence.

08/25 2008 | 11:10 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Torrentfreak is featuring an article about the "dark side of P4P", essentially saying that the technology that's been proposed to make P2P more effective within an ISP's network will eventually lead to tighter control on intellectual property, with the end goal being to filter out unauthorized file transfers. Torrentfreak's Ernesto writes that the researchers behind P4P might have some good ideas, but that the entertainment industry will eventually turn the technology into an anti-P2P tool.

I disagree with him on this one, as I've written here before. To be fair, nobody will really know how P4P will look like until it's deployed, but my understanding has always been that it won't be mandatory, meaning that P2P vendors can chose to ignore the recommendations a P4P system gives them. That's not really a setup that sounds like a good copyright filter to me.

There's one other point in the Torrentfreak article that's very much up to interpretation. Ernesto quotes the P4P mission statement with the following words:

"[to] Determine, validate, and encourage the adoption of methods for ISPs and P2P software distributors to work together to enable and support consumer service improvements as P2P adoption and resultant traffic evolves while protecting the intellectual property (IP) of participating entities"

His conclusion is that this is about protecting the rights of the MPAA's members, since the association is an observing member of the P4P working group.

I think there is a much simpler explanation: ISPs view the architecture of their networks as trade secrets. P2P vendors like Joost on the other hand are secretive about the inner workings of their clients. That's why P4P is build as being a neutral entity that doesn't transmit complete network maps or protocol specifications, but only helps to find the closest links in particular instances.

Of course, all of this comes back to a point I made earlier on this blog: P4P not only needs to win over ISPs and P2P vendors, but also consumers, and they haven't really done a great job in doing so. Part of that is to be frank about privacy - even if it means to take fire from the entertainment industry that would like to see other solutions in place.

08/23 2008 | 01:20 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The BBC’s iPlayer continues its unparalleled success story with new audience records during the Olympic games and a new codec that will make the iPlayer’s video look even better during full-screen mode. The BBC announced the introduction of 800 Kbps H.246 streams in a blog post about a week ago, promising “sharper video quality.”

Not everybody seems to be happy about these developments: Some articles this week suggested that the BBC is switching from its current content delivery network Akamai to Level3, causing much pain for smaller ISPs that don’t have the right peering agreements in place. A commenter on Thinkbroadband.com even mused that “the BBC web-site and IPlayer will slow to a crawl and possible stop loading altogether” soon. Here’s the good news: The sky isn’t falling — and the new changes actually hint at bigger things to come. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

08/22 2008 | 03:01 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It's not just German prosecutors anymore that get buried in file sharing lawsuits. Universities are increasingly feeling burdened by the music industry's legal campaign against file sharing as well, according to an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle is reporting that Virginia Tech now has two full employees working full time to respond to RIAA requests.

More and more colleges are fed up with the flood of lawsuits, take down notices and pre-litigation requests. Some have considered erasing their log files more often so they can't cooperate with the RIAA, while others have openly fought the music industry's subpoenas in court. The article is a few days old, but definitely worth a read.

08/21 2008 | 12:38 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
German avant-garde musician Johannes Kreidler has composed a song that quotes from 70,200 other musical works in merely 33 seconds. Did I mention he's an avant-garde musician? In any case, he's trying to be a good citizen and properly report all of the songs he used to the German music rights organization GEMA. The only problem: Each and every song quoted has to be reported by filling out a separate form.

Kreidler has said that his song aims to question the validity of copyright in the age of the internet. "Copying is a form of culture, and technological progress always wins", Kreidler recently told journalists during a press conference. So how did he come up with 70,200 songs? "Pure modesty", he explains on his website, adding that in theory he could have used 41,000 songs per second.

Kreidler plans to deliver a truck full of filled out forms to GEMA on September 12th. The song itself used to be hosted by the Internet Archive, but it seems to be down right now.

(via gulli)

08/21 2008 | 10:41 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Washington-based adware vendor Zango has been in the spotlight in recent days for cooperating with web sites that serve pirated movies and TV shows online. There have been calls to sue Zango — but such a step could open a can of worms.

The whole story all started with a post on the FaceTime Security Labs Blog last week about Movietvonline.com, which forces Windows-using visitors to install Zango’s adware application in order to access a catalog of bootlegged video streams and downloads. FaceTime followed up with reports about several other sites doing the same thing; install Zango, get access to Hollywood blockbusters and TV show episodes.

Security researcher Ben Edelman told Computerworld earlier this week that he believes Zango is violating the DMCA by cooperating with sites like Movietvonline.com and that Hollywood would win a court case against Zango. “I think this would be a pretty good one to pursue, because Zango is profiting directly from the infringement,” he added. While the idea of Hollywood suing an adware company sounds enticing, is the case really that clear-cut? And what kind of implications could a successful Hollywood lawsuit have for other advertisers in the online video space? Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

08/19 2008 | 04:56 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Southern California-based adult film company John Stagliano Inc, better known as Evil Angel, has apparently hired a German anti-piracy company to track down and sue file sharers. A recently leaked contract shows that Evil Angel ordered Germany's Digiprotect to track more than 800 individual film titles, ranging from "Euro Hardball 15" to "She-male Domination Nation". The contract shows that Evil Angel assigned exclusive P2P distribution rights of these movie titles to Digiprotect, which in turn can use these rights in lawsuits against individual file sharers.

Germany has become a kind of battle ground for P2P enforcement in recent years, with companies like Digiprotect and associated lawyers starting more than 100,000 criminal investigations against individual file sharers. Most of these investigations are later dropped, but the rights holders use them as a launch pad for civil enforcement, billing file sharers anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand Euros.

Critics contend that these lawsuits are not about stopping infringement, but about making a quick buck, and Digiprotect's own slogan "Turn piracy into profit" seems to support this argument. German prosecutors have recently decided to put an end to these lawsuits by only opening cases with at least 200 films shared because their offices have been burried by thousands and thousands of lawsuits each month, costing the German tax payer millions.

It's somewhat ironic that John Stagliano is also at the center of a different kind of lawsuit in the US. Stagliano has been indicted for distributing obscene materials via mail and online. Adult industry magazine XBiz reported back in April that Stagliano's lawyer thought this kind of lawsuit was "a waste of the government’s resources."

(via gulli)

08/18 2008 | 12:09 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
"Make Money Doing What You Love", "Double Your Dating - Online Hookups for Dummies", "Psychology - Instant Fact - How to Get the Truth Out of Anyone", and of course "How To Get Laid": Have you ever wondered why the e-book section of your average torrent site usually features countless trashy e-books that would never make it into any decent book store? The answer is simple: Affiliate links.

Affiliate marketers are increasingly using torrent sites to spread their links and make a few extra bucks from unsuspecting downloaders. One of them recently shared her recipe for success on Gather.com. The poster, who goes by the user name Lana R., explains:

"I've come to a conclusion that "pirates" however cheap as they come, are unable to get over one big manly flaw, SEX. And my tests have proven, that pirates PAY on a higher consistency than the average online porn surfer. This translates into much higher conversion rates, with a much larger somewhat untapped market."


It seems like Lana has since completely embraced the pirate lifestyle. She's even copying or mashing up other people's books in order to spread her links:

"Get (or ahem purchase) dating guides (ebooks/videos/seminars) online. (...) Scrape them and summarize them into an ebook less than 5 pages long."

Apparently not everyone appreciates Lana's hard work. She writes that she has been banned from torrent sites before for posting books with titles like "Online women are easy" and "Where to find horny women online." Her solution is apparently to come up with even more ridiculous titles for her link-laden e-books:

"You want to change your title and description to something like this... "$3997 Underground Online Dating Guide - Only sold to 10 people" or any variation to this. Basically you want everyone to know that the ebook WASN'T FREE, and it costs a bomb to get such an exclusive guide. Remember to make up a guru name like "Mr. Playboy"."

I know, sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But the sad truth is that Lana R. has made almost 900 bucks so far with this stuff - that is, if her numbers are right. But who wouldn't believe Mr. Playboy?

08/17 2008 | 04:41 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Defend Net Neutrality! Don’t force ISPs to spy on their customers in the name of copyright enforcement! Such are the demands of a European online video campaign called Throttle the Package that has recently been launched by — no, not the overseas bureau of the EFF — TelecomTV, a web site that’s targeting executives from, and is partially funded by, Europe’s telco companies.

U.S. ISPs like AT&T have said they’re open to engaging in copyright enforcement in the past, and companies like Comcast have spent lots of money lobbying against Net Neutrality. Not so in Europe. Instead of writing checks to politicians, the folks over there sit down with them for video interviews and ask hard-hitting questions. So, why are things so different in Europe? Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

08/14 2008 | 02:01 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Swiss-based file sharing platform Wua.la is finally launching its public beta today after almost a year of closed alpha-testing. Part of the launch will be a completely revamped application that is now based on a Java applet, making it possible to use the service without installing any software. I had the chance to play with the new offering in the last couple of days as well as talk to Dominik Grolimund, CEO of Wua.la maker Caleido.

pic of wuala app

Wua.la got quite a bit of attention when it started its private beta test phase late last year because it has been combining private file sharing with a novel approach of distributed data storage. Files shared via Wua.la are automatically uploaded to the P2P cloud, making it possible to share files with friends even when you're not online. File fragments are redundantly stored both on users' computers as well as on Wua.la's servers. You can read more about the actually pretty clever way Wua.la stores files in my original review.

The applet itself was running pretty smooth when I tested it. I initially had a little bit of trouble, but that went away once I deleted the old Wua.la alpha version - something to consider if you've been an alpha tester.

Grolimund told me that the alpha test has been really successful for the company. They were able to get 40,000 registered users just through invite codes, and those users shared a total of 50 Terabyte of data. The alpha test apparently also helped to refocus Wua.la. The company was initially thinking about approaching indie musicians and other content owners and market Wua.la as a P2P publishing tool, but is now focusing more on social networks.

pic of wua.la web interface

Users of Facebook and Myspace can already link to their Wua.la folders, leading their friends to personalized web pages like this one, where new users can start the Java applet without installing any software on their local machines. Public files can also be downloaded without registering for an account first. Next up on the horizon are widgets, apps and other forms of integration into social networking platforms, and an API is also in the works.

I really believe that this potential of integrating Wua.la with sites like Facebook is the most promising part of the beta launch. I've been writing about this ever since Wua.la launched its private alpha last October: Secure, P2P-based cloud storage could be the best thing that ever happened to users of Myspace and Facebook.

Just consider for a second all the security holes that have led to the exposure of supposedly private files from social networking websites. Valleywag has been covering this extensively, publishing photos from both Paris Hilton's and Lindsay Lohan's Myspace account in June. Those photos were supposed to be private and only accessible to direct friends of Hilton and Lohan, but Valleywag was able to access them with a simple trick.

pic of wua.la privacy settings

A service like Wua.la on the other hand makes sure that no one except your friends will access your files by using cryptography, with your private key securely being stored on your hard drive where no one else can access it. Grolimund told me that the company doesn't even know who accesses which file as long as the files are not shared as public.

Of course, monetizing online and personal file sharing solutions isn't easy. Allpeers, Tubesnow, Mediamax and a bunch of others all tried it without success, and even an online giant like AOL doesn't think this is a business worth pursuing. Grolimund however believes that Wua.la will profit from its viral nature and the fact that it offers more security than purely web-based solutions. Wua.la has been experimenting with context-relevant advertising, but its also starting to offer premium services with the launch of the beta test, starting with the ability to buy additional storage.

Viral growth, ads and paid services - that sounds like a good combination for success. Combine that with the fact that Wua.la seems to be flexible enough to reinvent itself - and you got a company worth watching.

08/13 2008 | 01:40 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Law enforcement officials from several German states have told local press in recent days that they won't pursue the vast majority of file sharing lawsuits anymore. A spokesperson of the state prosecutor of Nort-Rhine Westphalia told the online magazine jetzt.de earlier this week that P2P users won't have to fear any lawsuits if they don't share files on a "substantial, commercial" level.

The criteria to determine whether P2P users reach this level are both the number of files shared and the specific value of the shared files. From the interview:

"The economic value of a music file is about one Euro, whereas a movie is valued at about 15 Euro. Based on that we define a commercial level as damages greater than 3000 Euro."

Does that mean that you can now share up to 3000 MP3s without getting sued in Germany? Well, not exactly. Another indicator for so-called commercial infringement is the specific nature of the files shared. Sharing a movie that has not been released theatrically in Germany could get you in trouble even if you don't share to many other files, according to the prosecutor's spokesperson.

North-Rhine Westphalia isn't the only state in Germany that chooses to ignore small-time file sharing. Similar regulations are also put in place in Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt as well as in Berlin. The regulations are a reaction to hundreds of thousands of lawsuits against file sharers that have been filed by rights holders in recent years. North-Rhine Westphalia's prosecutor told jetzt.de that one of three offices in his state has received 25,000 lawsuits in the first half of this year alone.

(via netzpolitik.org)

Update: Why did Germany have such a high number of P2P lawsuits in the first place? Read all about it here: Monster vaginas cost German tax payers millions

08/12 2008 | 12:09 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
NBC’s delayed Olympics coverage and sports’ fans quest to find pirated livestreams online has officially become the media story of the games. Even the New York Times has chimed in, noting what it referred to as the “game of digital whack-a-mole” between pirates and NBC that took place during the opening ceremony. The network’s fight against unauthorized streams on sites like Ustream.tv and Justin.tv continued all weekend, with streams going down quicker that you can say Dick Ebersol.

The network may win a fight or two, but the battle is far from over. I’m watching a broadcast of the Cuba vs. the Netherlands beach volleyball game — which NBC’s cable channel USA Network won’t show for another two hours and won’t air online at all — live on my laptop as I’m writing this article, courtesy of some folks in France that relay a live TV signal from heaven knows where. To be fair, there are some occasional hiccups with the video, but the overall quality is actually pretty good. Good enough to keep me engaged, and definitely good enough to question the whole idea of NBC-like restrictions in the age of global online video. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

08/11 2008 | 12:05 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The P4P working group is planing another round of tests for its technology, this time focused on P2P video streams, according to Contentinople.com. P4P is a technology that aims to reduce the stress P2P is putting on ISP networks by helping to establish connections between users within the same subnet.

It has proven to work pretty well for BitTorrent-based file downloads; in fact, Pando CTO Laird Popkin reportedly told the crown at last week's DCIA event in San Jose that a recent second field test showed even better results than a first test earlier this year that resulted in improvements of up to 50 percent related to the amount of traffic routed locally versus though interconnections to other ISPs.

Tuning P4P for live P2P streams could help to get the system ready for prime time. However, it seems like the P4P working group also still has a lot of work to do when it comes to explaining what P4P is and how it will affect the end user. I just recently talked to a colleague of mine who expressed the opinion that P4P will ultimately become a vehicle to speed up licensed and in turn slow down unlicensed and not commercially viable content.

I personally don't believe that's the case - not because a system like P4P couldn't be used for such a purpose, but because it would involve a level of knowledge about customers' file transfers that ISPs most certainly don't want to have. Recent discussions at and around the IETF's latest meeting seem to back me up on this point. However, the folks from the IETF shouldn't be the only ones who understand what P4P is and what it is not.

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08/10 2008 | 05:04 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Chinese P2P solutions provider Vatata, whose similarly named P2P streaming platform Vakaka we wrote about last year, has developed a set-top box solution to bring a Joost-like P2P TV experience to the living room. It provides access to both the company’s own P2P network for live streaming video as well as public P2P networks and protocols such as Emule, Gnutella and BitTorrent for media downloads.

Vatata’s CEO Jian Song told me that the company already has three customers in China that licensed the platform for their own products, with TV manufacturer Skyworth and set-top box maker Himedia being two of them. The first devices featuring the solution are supposed to hit the shelves in China this summer. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

08/09 2008 | 07:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
AOL is getting ready to sell or shut down XDrive, it's web storage unit, because of its high operating costs. I suggested a few weeks back that this could be seen as troubling for other web storage and file sharing platforms, but Box.net apparently couldn't be happier.

pic of xdrive backup tool

The service is embracing XDrive customers in search for a new home with open arms. In fact, Box.net community manager Kendra Ott just dropped by this blog to announce that the company has launched a web-based transfer tool that makes it possible to automatically back up all your XDrive files to a Box.net account. Just remember that XDrive gives you five gigs free, whereas Box.net limits free accounts to one gig.

The tool requires for you to give Box.net your Xdrive username and password, which usually doesn't seem like a god idea, but doesn't really seem too troublesome if you want to leave XDrive anyway. And of course no one can expect for XDrive to launch OAuth just to make its shut-down a little more pleasant.

I was going to try out the service, but it looks like XDrive already pulled the plug on its sign-up without really wanting to tell anyone about it. The Captcha test during sign-up returns error messages even for correct inputs.

08/07 2008 | 04:39 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bittorrent Inc is in the news this week after Valleywag reported about a rumored layoff round affecting 12 employees. The company has since confirmed the layoffs, but said it was less than 12 people.

There is an interesting insider account about Bittorrent's troubles over at Valleywag as well, definitely worth a read. Valleywag published some sort of analysis of Bittorrent's troubles as well, but it probably shouldn't. Owen Thomas wrote yesterday that the FCC decision to slap Comcast on the wrist for its Bittorrent filtering "killed Bittorrent's promising business." From his post:

"As for BitTorrent's content-delivery network, it was premised on the notion that BitTorrent would negotiate with ISPs to get privileged delivery for their file-sharing packets, while Comcast blocked others. With the FCC forcing Comcast to treat all file-sharing traffic equally, the promise of that business evaporated."

That's just silly. The FCC forced Comcast to do something the company has been promising on its own since March: Switching to a protocol-agnostic type of network management. The ruling didn't even change Comcast's timeline, giving the company another four months to compete the transition. So how is this going to harm Bittorrent Inc?

Owen's argument that a move to metered bandwidth would make Bittorrent downloads look bad to consumers also doesn't make any sense. Metered bandwidth makes any large media file download look bad, period.

08/06 2008 | 11:46 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It looks like online piracy could become a major issue for the Beijing Olympics. The Pirate Olympics story I wrote for Newteevee.com yesterday quickly made it to the Digg front page. Slyck is reporting today that the Chinese TV network CCTV is working with Mediasentry parent Safenet to DRM protect it's online transmission of the games. And now this: The Google-backed Chinese P2P platform Xunlei got sued by CCTV for copyright infringement related to the Olympics.

CCTV alleges that Xunlei broadcasted video of the Olympic torch relay without the network's permission, according to Pacific Epoch. The site is reporting that CCTV sued Xunlei in Shanghai's Second Intermediate Court on Augst 4th. The lawsuit is apparently meant as a warning shot against other potential violators.

CCTV reportedly has set up a dedicated Olympic rights protection center to fight off infringement, and formed an Olympic Copyright Protection Squad, which is something of an alliance with local online video hosters meant to deter users from uploading pirated videos. From the Pacific Epoch report:

"During the Olympics, the partners plan to establish a hotline to report copyright violations and designate space on their sites to announce copyright violators and their punishments."


08/05 2008 | 05:06 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Hollywood's lawsuit against the owner and former admin of the now-defunct Torrentspy.com site and his counter-suit against the MPAA now seem to become more about privacy than about piracy. Torrentspy owner Justin Bunnell sued the MPAA two years ago for conspiracy and breach of privacy, arguing that the industry association had paid a hacker to illegally obtain evidence against Bunnell.

The case was based on the testimony of a former associate of Bunnell who had stated that the MPAA paid him 15,000 dollars to hack into Bunnell's e-mail Inbox and get information about the site as well as other torrent admins. Bunnells lawsuit was dismissed last summer when a court ruled that the MPAA did not violate any wiretapping laws because it was technically not tapping any wires. The court found that Bunnell's emails were at some point stored on a server, and as such not part of a data transmission.

Sounds like nitpicking, but the EFF believes that such semantics could undermine our electronic privacy laws. The organization has now filed a friend of the court letter to support Bunnell in his recently filed appeal. The EFF's press release quotes Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston with the following words:

"That court opinion -- holding that the secret and unauthorized copying and forwarding of emails while they pass through an email server is not an illegal interception of those emails -- threatens to wholly eviscerate federal privacy protections against Internet wiretapping and to authorize the government to conduct similar email surveillance without getting a wiretapping order from a judge."


08/05 2008 | 02:52 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Countless sports fans will look for video coverage of the Olympic games online while trapped in their cubicles this week, and chances are at least some of them won’t head to NBC’s official web site but will try their luck elsewhere. In fact, NBC’s decision to delay the online video coverage of popular events for three hours is almost an invitation to waste a few hours of time on pirate sites and P2P TV forums.

The IOC is aware of this problem and is trying to address it by posting authorized videos on YouTube. Too bad these clips won’t be accessible to folks in the United States. So where will U.S. Olympians go? Hard to say, to be honest. There’s a plethora of options out there, ranging from Chinese P2P services to torrent sites. However, previous sports events, ranging from the recent Euro Cup soccer contest to your regular NBA game, can give us a first idea of what kind of pirate platforms might get the Beijing bump. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

08/04 2008 | 11:06 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German music rights holders association GEMA has expanded its fight against one click hosters like Megaupload and Rapidshare by targeting a new breed of intermediaries: File spreading engines, also called spreaders, are websites that make it possible to upload a file on multiple sites at the same time.

pic of hubupload interface

GEMA was able to force Shareonall.com to shut down this weekend, and is now targeting Hubupload.com and Datennschleuder.cc. It also took Xirror.com to court in June and was able to get a preliminary injunction against the site which is now offline as well. GEMA celebrated the shut-down of the site as a proof that it is taking "forceful actions" against file spreading engines.

There are some inconsistencies to the GEMA story though. The Xirror.com owners have told the German IT news webiste heise.de that they decided to shut down the site in mid-June for a variety of reasons, with problems to monetize the bandwidth-intensive service being one of them. GEMA was only able to secure the injunction two days after the shut-down, according to Xirror.

GEMA has previously targeted one click hosters directly. It won in a German court against Rapidshare.com in January, but the file hoster has appealed the ruling.

08/01 2008 | 12:43 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I've previously made fun of the EFF's overly complicated test your ISP project because it asked users amongst other things to "disable TCP segmentation offloading" in order to test whether their ISP is messing with their torrents.

Well, it looks like customer-driven counter intelligence just got a little easier. The EFF released a new tool called Switzerland today that uses a semi-dezentralized approach to test for any type of protocol interference. The tool still requires quite a bit of technical knowledge, and it isn't exactly convenient either.

Two users have to coordinate a test to get any results, and the EFF is suggesting to use a Wiki to find volunteers. You should also know how to start a Python script, which of course requires Python to be installed on your machine. And you have to watch out for your router, possible disabling any firewall and and using a wired connection to rule out any false positives.

These are all hurdles that will stop many from using Switzerland, and there's definitely room to improve. Then again, there are of course already easier tools that do basic tests, like the web-based Glasnost applet, but these can only do so much. Glasnost for example can only test for dropped packets, and it currently only tests BitTorrent file transfers. Switzerland on the other hand has a much broader approach. From the EFF's website:

"Switzerland is designed to detect the modification or injection of packets of data traveling over IP networks, including those introduced by anti-P2P tools from Sandvine (widely believed to be used by Comcast to interfere with BitTorrent uploads) and AudibleMagic, advertising injection systems like FairEagle, censorship systems like the Great Firewall of China, and other systems that we don't know about yet."

It's definitely good to have both easy to use and comprehensive tools available, and it will be interesting to see what the findings of Switzerland users will be.

08/01 2008 | 10:20 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Federal Communications Commission has ruled against Comcast’s BitTorrent blocking. The Commission’ Memorandum Opinion and Order does not include a direct punishment, but stipulates that Comcast will have to disclose details about its current network management practices and stop these practices by the end of the year, as well as to further disclose details about any future network management. FCC head Kevin Martin has been hinting at such a ruling since early July, and his two Democratic co-commissioners said last weekend that they would support a ruling against Comcast. Read more details about the ruling itself over at GigaOM.

The big question is: What happens next? Comcast had already promised to switch to a protocol-agnostic way of network management by the end of the year, but it could still appeal the ruling. Spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice said in a prepared statement that the company is weighing all its legal options, adding: “We…believe that the Commission’s order raises significant due process concerns and a variety of substantive legal questions.” It’s also not clear if the ruling will really deter others from engaging in similar behavior, which is why some still hope for new FCC rules. Others think the ruling didn’t go far enough and now hope for the courts to act. Either way, the Net Neutrality fight is poised to continue. (Not unlike this article.)