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03/31 2009 | 11:51 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Did Rapidshare provide the IP address of an uploader to German law enforcement officials, leading to police raiding a flat of a person suspected of uploading the last Metallica album to service? That's the charge that the German online magazine Gulli.com recently made in an article. Rapidshare did not confirm or deny the charges when contacted by P2P Blog.

Here's what supposedly happened: A German Metallica fan uploaded the band's latest album Death Magnetic to Rapidshare one day before its official world-wide release date in September of '08. He also posted links to the album on various forums. Rights holders immediately took notice and tried to get the identity of the uploader. They were eventually successful, which led to a raid of his flat and the confiscation of his PC as well as various CDs in February.

The uploader in question believes that rights holders got his IP address from Rapidshare, because law enforcement officials had unique information about the time of the upload as well as the number of downloads. Others have however mused that rights holders could have gotten the IP address just as likely from a forum. The whole case is even more complicated because it is largely based on infomation published online by the accused, some of which has vanished since.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this and contacted Rapidshare directly. A spokesperson did not confirm or deny the charges. "We can say with certainty that we deleted the data in question from our servers in September of 08", she told me. She also pointed out that the case is based on an incident that happened more than six months ago, making it presumably harder to reconstruct what exactly happened.

However, the spokesperson also admitted that Rapidshare routinely keeps data that makes it possible to identify uploaders. In her own words: "We save when and from which IP address a file is being uploaded."

Rapidshare is based in Switzerland, but the company has a history of engaging with rights holders in other countries. The company has been providing an interface to international rights holders that makes it possible to automate take-down requests for infringing content, and it previously spat with German rights holders in court. When asked by P2P Blog why Rapidshare even cares about lawsuits in other countries, Rapidshare CEO Bobby Chang replied: "Rapidshare operates internationally and does of course have some German users as well."

Germany's new copyright laws gives rights holders the ability to ask ISPs or hosting companies like Rapidshare for the IP address of suspected infringers. These requests still have to be granted by a judge, but anecdotal evidence shows that this process can be fairly quick in case of obvious and substantial infringements. An unreleased album of a hugely successful band like Metallica would certainly fit that pattern. Update: I should probably add that raids are also only done in more substantial cases, like pre-release piracy.

03/30 2009 | 08:44 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Any chance you're in Barcelona tomorrow, the 31st of March at around 7pm local time? Then you should stop by the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, where Michel Bauwens (P2P Foundation) and Ismael Peña (ICTlogy.net) will debate the significance of P2P for the cultural and economics spheres. From the announcement:

"P2P (Peer-to-Peer) file-sharing networks go beyond the use that is generally made of these new technologies (music and films exchanges). They are essentially based on shared power and a widely distributed access to resources in a participative design of social processes where nobody is excluded. Everything seems to aim that exporting the P2P model to non-digital spaces will become the core logic of our societies in the near future.

Are we prepared to produce equal-to-equal culture and create common values? Can we demand a peer-to-peer government? Will we be able to hold the peer-to-peer property and defend common value versus private appropiation?"


The discussion will be hosted by Olivier Schulbaum of Platoniq.net, and it will be streamed live as well. Just in case you're not in the neighborhood.

03/29 2009 | 10:16 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Hollywood and the major record labels have always enjoyed a love-hate relationship with new media, alternating between roses and lawsuits for online entrepreneurs, if you will. Lately, it was looking a little like love was going to win. Hulu, after all, had convinced its detractors that even big dinosaurs can get things right, and record labels had started to embrace services like MySpace Music and Last.fm. But like an alcoholic that just can’t resist that drink, big media looks ready to relapse.

There’s been a lot of bad news out of the so-called Music 2.0 space this week, with Imeem said to be in financial trouble, and Last.fm forcing some of its subscribers to cough up around $4 per month. There’s also a storm brewing in the online video world, where some networks have started to take their most valuable content offline in order to maximize traditional revenue, and platforms like Hulu are being forced to fight any attempt to bring online content to the living room. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

03/27 2009 | 03:23 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Seeking Alpha has an interesting article about Akamai getting ready to roll out P2P-based offerings to a larger client base. From the article:

"Sources that work in the P2P delivery space say that Akamai has been pitching a client-based distribution technology to some of its customers over the past few months, most notably to gaming and media companies that offer large file downloads. Those same sources expect that Akamai could soon make the offering public."

Of course, Akamai previously acquired Red Swoosh, and it has since rebranded the Red Swoosh client as the Akamai Netsession Interface. Seeking Alpha is also reporting two recent hirings that were news to me: Both Haiyoung Xie and Bill Wishon now work for the CDN operator. Xie came up with the idea for P4P while at Yale, and Wishon used to work for Kontiki.

It's going to be interesting to see how exactly Akamai is going to roll out this product. However, I doubt they're ever going to be as radical as the original Red Swhoosh guys who wanted to transform P2P into the CDN of choice for bloggers, podcasters and social media users.

03/26 2009 | 01:37 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The makers of the popular file-sharing client Limewire have started to develop a podcast directory called LimeCast. The company is currently in the process of gathering content as well as building the actual platform, which is already online as a work-in-progress, open-source project. There hasn’t been any official announcement about the directory, but it’s safe to assume that this will eventually be integrated into the Limewire client.

That’s an interesting development for a number of reasons: The podcast directory represents Limewire’s first serious foray into the world of online video. It could also give podcasters some significant additional exposure. And finally, the P2P client may eventually help the podcasting world with essentially free bandwidth by facilitating downloads via Gnutella and BitTorrent. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

03/26 2009 | 12:02 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
German police officers took down a private Birttorrent tracker last week, raiding three flats and confiscating multiple PCs, hard drives, DVDs and CDs. The bust was initiated by investigations of the German anti-piracy organization GVU, which had this to say about it in a press release:

"Members of the file sharing networks were able to buy download packages for up to 75 Euros. Users who paid 100 Euros or more received special privileges."

The tracker apparently provided access to movies, video games and porn, but it only listet a total of about 300 titles. Just a quick comparison: The Pirate Bay currently tracks 1725641 torrents, and Demonoid, arguably one of the biggest private trackers, has around 240,000 torrents in its database.

That makes this small tracker almost look like it's not worth the hassle, doesn't it? Well, apparently you can still get some good headlines out of a bust like this one. The German press has picked up on the GVU press release, but overlooked a few subtle details.

The GVU never said that users of the now-busted tracker had to pay in order to download content. In fact, it's probably safe to assume that those payments were voluntary donations that were rewarded with ratio credits. However, Germany's biggest news site Spiegel.de reports that this was a "so called paytracker, meaning a file sharing server that only provided access to paying users."

03/25 2009 | 04:36 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
An AT&T exec admitted on Tuesday at a music industry gathering that is company is working with the RIAA to combat file sharing. Jim Cicconi told his audience that his company has started to send warning letters to P2P users suspected of copyright infringement.

CNet News wrote about the admission, which apparently put AT&T's PR department into overdrive mode. Here are the various addendums to the original CNet story that pretty mush show why three strikes will go nowhere:

Update: Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. PDT: To include quotes from AT&T and information about Comcast and Cox.

Update: Wednesday 10:37 a.m. PDT: To include statement from AT&T spokeswoman who wished to correct what she had previously said. She says now that the company asserts in the letters that it has the right to terminate a policy.She said, however, the company has no intention of doing so.

Update: Wednesday 3:40 p.m. PDT: AT&T says that it won't ever terminate service of customers without a court order.


Go and read the original story here.

03/24 2009 | 12:04 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bittorrent-powered file hosting service Vipeers has introduced premium services today in an effort to sustain the substantial growth it's been seeing since it teamed up with Mininova earlier this year.

Vipeers started off offering offering free and unlimited file hosting and seeding via HTTP and Bittorrent last November, but it scaled back the number of available HTTP downloads only a few weeks later because of overwhelming demand.

The new pricing structure still includes a free account with 5GB of storage and 5GB of bandwidth for HTTP downloads. Non-paying users can store files up to 30 days, with the maximum file size being 1GB. Paid accounts on the other hand offer 50GB of storage for up to 90 days, with a maximum file size limit of 5GB and 50 GB of HTTP bandwidth. Paid accounts cost either $3.99 for 48 hours or $7.99 for 30 days.

Louis Choquel from Vipeers told me that the service has seen a lot of growth ever since it teamed up with Mininova: "Before the link from Mininova we had (about) 40 000 peers on our tracker and now we have daily concurrent users over 60 000 and seeing peeks at 100 000 peers." He added that most of the Mininova traffic is actual Bittorrent traffic and not direct HTTP downloads: "This is exactly the effect that we are seeking as it enables to serve files to more people, without increasing our bandwidth bill."

So what's in store for the future of Vipeers? The company has been merging its Bittorent hosting service with its Bittorrent-powered person to person file transfer service Podmailing, which means that Vipeers users can now use Podmailing with the same account information and vice versa.

It also means that the same service level restrictions apply to Podmailing, and there are some more updates coming up in the future to make Vipeers more appealing to people that just want to share files with a select audience. Says Choquel: "We are also far along the way to offer a new choice of privacy level so that you can share files publicly, privately or just with your friends."

03/23 2009 | 11:13 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Musicweek just published an article about the deliberations on funding a Digital Rights Agency in the UK that's full of inside baseball ... but read between the lines, and you'll find more proof that the whole three strikes idea may sound great on paper (to rights holders, anyway), but it's really tough to implement. First, a little background:

The Birtish music industry was able to threaten local ISPs into helping them fight P2P file sharing last summer. Six big UK ISPs agreed to send warning letters to file sharers in a limited trial, and the British government was going to oversee the process.

The British music industry celebrated this as a first step towards a three strikes system that would eventually boot repeat infringers off the Internet, but ISPs were quick to point out that they have no plans to rid themselves of their customers. Government officials quickly joined in after citizens began to ask tough questions. The officially sanctioned version of what was going on began to sound a little like this: This is only a test run, we'll have consultations, form working groups, establish a process, maybe come up with an agency with fancy name but without a clearly defined role. Nothing to see here, move along

And that's exactly where we are now. The agency that is supposed to solve all problems with P2P piracy will be called the "Digital Rights Agency", and it's still unclear what it's supposed to do. Sure, everyone has their own laundry lists. ISPs would like it to keep them out of trouble, the music industry wants, you guessed it, three strikes, and American Idol boss Tony Cohen even wants the agency to collect micropayments so he can make more money with videos of teenagers embarrassing themselves in front of a TV audience.

All of these wishes are collected right now, according to Musikweek, and some people are even keeping track of the potential costs:

"The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Culture Media and Sport have just opened a consultation on how such a body would work and has estimated – depending on the agency’s eventual structure – that it could cost at least £2.5m."

Darn. 2.5 million British pounds. That's a lot of money, even with the recent decline of the UK's currency. Why would it be so expensive? Again, Musicweek:

"The ministers state, 'There are a range of options for the agency. At one end of the scale it could be a very light touch organisation acting in a similar way to the Advertising Standards Authority… at the other end of the scale, the agency could be a substantial self-regulatory body, working under the authority of the regulator to draft codes of practice.' The latter setup, it is estimated, would require a staff of around 50 to run it, and would need a “minimum budget” of £2.5m"

And no, that's not tax payer money we're talking about here. Record labels would be required to cough up almost half of it, with the rest coming from ISPs. Problem is, most record labvels don't really have much spare change these days. The industry has already cut back on its own anti-piracy efforts and fired a bunch of people at industry associations like the RIAA. Some apparently now feel like it may not be worth to pump another million into a new organization. Musikweek quotes one exec with the following words:

"£2m might be a bit steep. The question is, will the agency bring filesharing to a tolerable level? I’m not sure it will."


Of course, that's good news. Major record labels have for years abused courts all over the world by swamping them with lawsuits that didn't have any measurable impact of file sharing. Now they are asked to share some of the burden - and start to wonder whether it's really worth it.

03/23 2009 | 12:20 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Amazon looks set to start selling HD video downloads any day now, hot on the heels of Apple’s iTunes HD movie offering, which was unveiled yesterday. Amazon’s web site already contains links to HD versions of TV show downloads, but while the actual show detail pages weren’t available, we found some juicy details about HD pricing: HD episodes of TV shows will cost $2.99, just like on iTunes, while complete seasons could add up to as much as $53.

It’s really only a question of when Amazon will offer HD downloads — and Dave Zatz unearthed some photos of HD downloads via Amazon’s TiVo interface earlier this month. Amazon’s HD content could also find its way to the Roku box, which the company has been supporting since early March. Amazon did not respond in time to comment on this story. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

03/19 2009 | 09:21 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
And you thought Simon Cowell was mean: American Idol head honcho Tony Cohen wants to cut off your Internet access if you’re downloading his show. Cohen, CEO of the UK-based Idol production company FremantleMedia, told the audience of the Changing Media Summit in London today that he supports so-called “three strikes” plans to disconnect repeat infringers from the Net, according to PaidContent UK.

The three strikes approach has many proponents within the music industry, and it fits in nicely with FremantleMedia’s approach to date. The company has been pretty stingy with licensing Idol videos online, forcing sites like YouTube to remove or mute videos of Idol performances. Even Hulu, which is partially owned by the American Idol TV network FOX, has been left in the cold. Cohen apparently has other plans for the “Idol” franchise: He told his audience in London that users should pay up to watch streams of the show. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

03/19 2009 | 11:20 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
External hard disk and server manufacturer Lacie has bought the social P2P storage and sharing service Wua.la, according to the Wua.la blog. Wua.la calls the acquisition a "merger", but the press release sent out by Wua.la today makes it clear who is merging with whom:

"The nine staff members that influence the development and operation of Wuala will remain with the company. They will join a team of LaCie members who will drive efforts to evolve the technology, adding new features and capabilities that will be integrated into a range of LaCie storage solutions."


Wua.la has been offering a Java-based cloud storage application that makes it possible to securely share files with your friends. It also utilizes some interesting P2P technology to store your data redundantly in the cloud. I've previously reviewed Wua.la here and written about some important updates here.

Maybe one reason the Wua.la folks call this a merger is the fact that this isn't just a technology acquisition. Wua.la will continue to operate its service and soon expand it to Lacie hardware. From a just-released FAQ:

"Soon, there will be additional offers and products with Wuala running on it. The merger will not affect your current use of Wuala at all. We will continue to work on Wuala, just like we've been doing during the last several months."

I've always thought Wua.la was a product with a lot of potential, it's exciting to see this expand to a more general consumer audience.

03/18 2009 | 12:44 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Zattoo is about to follow Joost in its footsteps and launch a browser-based version of its P2P TV service, according to the German online magazine Onlinekosten.de.

Zattoo apparently wants to test the browser-based approach with a limited number of users before a wider release is made available online. And who would use the new web platform? Casual users and women - at least that's what the folks at Zattoo believe, according to Onlinekosten.de.

Zattoo is a live P2P streaming service that so far launched in eight European countries. Zattoo has had less problems that Joost with its P2P technology because its users watch the same channels at the same time, making it essier to distribute the video data. The company announced three million registered users last July, and has since started to roll out premium services in some countries.

However, the service doesn't seem to be popular everywhere. Zattoo announced in early March that it will leave Belgium because of lack of interest of local Internet users.

03/16 2009 | 11:40 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Fresh in from the gosh-we-didn't-see-this-coming department: A recent survey by ISPreview.co.uk revealed that British broadband users really don't like the idea of disconnecting repeat infringers from the Internet. Only around six percent favored an Internet ban as a punishment for file sharers. This means the last resort measure of the so-called three strikes approach is almost as unpopular as P2P lawsuits, which were deemed an appropriate punishment by only about four percent of respondents.

Of course, one should be aware of the fact that ISPreview's surveys are somewhat self-selecting. The site is essentially the British counterpart to DSLreports.com, albeit with a somewhat more toned down editorial. Still, one might expect that most of the users that go to ISPreview in order to figure out which ISP offers them the best download rates are, well, downloading something, and possibly use P2P apps to do so.

That being said, around a fifth of the website's readers were apparently okay with ISPs restricting access to some file sharing services. From ISPreview:

"The results from 472 respondents to ISPreview.co.uk's latest survey has revealed that 20.7% of Brits think ISPs should tackle repeated illegal file sharing by imposing restrictions upon P2P access. This could potentially involve blocking websites that host links to illegal downloads and or restricting the maximum speed at which P2P services are allowed to run."

03/15 2009 | 10:50 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Proving once again that some folks just can't learn from other people's mistakes, German book publishers have just announced that they plan to sue thousands of file sharers for copyright infringement. Spiegel.de is reporting that Alexander Skipis, head of the German book publishers' association, used the Leipzig book fair to announce a lawsuit campaign similar to that waged by the music industry.

Skipis told the audience of his opening speech that his group intends to keep German courts busy with thousands of lawsuits. He also called P2P file sharing "organized crime" and lamented that politicians were ignoring the impact illegal downloads were having on book publishers.

The details of the publishers' legal campaign are still unknown. Germany has previously seen hundreds of thousands of lawsuits against music and video file sharers. The sheer number of these lawsuits has overwhelmed many courts to a point where some prosecutors have started to completely ignore any P2P-related complaints. A recent revision of Germany's copyright law was also meant to curb mass lawsuit campaigns, but it's still unclear whether it has had any effect on the number of lawsuits filed.

Skipis meanwhile echoed music industry representatives in demanding that ISPs should help to curb file sharing by forwarding warning letters and cut off repeat infringers - a controversial strategy that's also known as three strikes. Unfortunately for German publishers, there's no chance that this will become law in Germany anytime soon. The country's Secretary of Justice Brigitte Zypries recently called three strikes "a completely unreasonable punishment."

03/12 2009 | 11:40 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
A new version of the P2P plug-in Littleshoot makes it possible to download torrents right from within your browser. The software runs on Macs and Windows PCs and works with IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. It even offers Gnutella and Youtube integration as an added bonus. Continue reading on Torrentfreak.com.

03/09 2009 | 12:04 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I'll be attending the Emerging Technology Conference in San Jose during the next four days, where I'll hopefully do lots of interviews as well as write a few stories for some other outlets. Who knows, maybe I'll even find some time to Twitter.

The conference used to be called the O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer and Web Services Conference, but P2P hasn't really played a big role in recent years anymore, so don't expect too many updates here this week. In any case, feel free to ping me if you happen to be at ETech as well ...

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03/06 2009 | 12:17 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Ars Technica published an intriguing piece by Nate Anderson today predicting that file-sharing programs like the new version of Lime Wire will lead to users just swapping files among friends. These private sharing networks are oftentimes called darknets, and Anderson believes that entertainment companies should be afraid of them because they puts users out of reach of their P2P investigations. People that don’t share their files publicly can’t be sued, and darknet-like features in applications as popular as Lime Wire could have a dramatic impact on the entertainment industry’s efforts to enforce their rights online, Anderson believes.

I have a problem with this argument for a number of reasons: First of all, it’s overstating the need for darknets. Users haven’t felt like they had to hide in the past, and I don’t think they’ll go underground now that the music industry has announced its intention to stop filing lawsuits. Secondly, darknets just don’t work all that well for video content. And finally, looking at person-to-person file-sharing features through just your darknet glasses is severely underestimating their potential to make P2P more social. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

03/05 2009 | 05:06 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Internet access providers willing to take part in the RIAA's new initiative against file sharing should take notice of some new reports from France: The French business paper Les Echos reported in late Feburary that French ISPs expect to spend up to 16 million dollars per year on enforcing the country's proposed three strikes regulations, according to a summary report compiled by my colleagues from Futurezone.

France has been on the forefront of this approach that aims to send warning notices to file sharers and punish repeat infringers with cutting off their Internet connection. Three strikes was originally based on a voluntary cooperation between ISPs and the music industry, but rights holders have been pushing for this to become an enforceable law for over a year now.

A bill requiring providers to cooperate with record labels could be discussed in the French parliament as early as next week. The Paris-based daily La Liberation estimates that the bill could trigger around 10,000 warning e-mails, 3000 letters and 1000 decisions about Internet cut-offs per day.

However, non-compliance wouldn't exactly come cheap for ISPs either. The current bill wants to fine ISPs more that 6000 dollars per declined warning message or unenforced cut-off request.

03/04 2009 | 12:10 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
HP has decided to shut down its online backup and file sharing service Upline, according to Computerworld.

hp upline logo

The service already stopped backing up files last week, but HP will keep its Uline servers online for another month. The Computerworld article quotes a HP spokesperson with the following words:

"HP will keep the file-restore feature of the Upline service operational through March 31, 2009 ... in order for customers to download any files that have been backed up to Upline."


HP was only in the backup and sharing business for a year before shutting down Upline. Of course, Upline isn't the only such offering that has been shuttered: AOL shut down its XDrive service last summer, citing the lack of "monetization levels necessary to offset the high cost of (its) operation." In other words: Running a backup service is just too expensive.

Strongspace, Mediamax and Omnidrive also all closed last year. And Box.net, which seemed ready to embrace many of the customers left in the cold by these closures, is now refocusing to concentrate on business customers.

03/04 2009 | 12:05 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Half of all British kids use file sharing networks to trade music, according to a new study by the UK-based security company GSS. Most of these kids were aware of the fact that The Pirate Bay isn't quite the same as iTunes, according to a GSS press release:

"When questioned about the legalities of downloading music, nearly all of the children understood that there were legal and illegal methods that could be used to download music. Over half admitted to using P2P software to download music illegally rather than using programs such as iTunes."


Of course, research like this is usually somewhat self-serving: GSS is making its money by helping corporate customers to secure their networks, and the company believes that music-trading teens are the newest danger for corporate IT security.

How so, you might ask? GSS believes that file sharing is a major source of virus infections, referring to the fact that 20 percent of all kids that took part in its survey admitted accidentally downloading viruses from file sharing networks. Of course, the tricky part about viruses is that they tend to spread, so all it takes is a parent and a USB drive. From the press release:

"An organisation's security is only as strong as its weakest link, and the home PC may be a huge threat to an organisation's data."

So what's the lesson to be learned from this? Maybe that your kids should have their own PCs?

03/02 2009 | 09:04 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Schools across the country have been wondering what to do after the licensed college music service Ruckus abruptly shut down about a month ago. Ruckus had official relationships with around 250 schools nationwide, and some of them have been using the service as a carrot to defend restrictive file sharing policies that outlawed the use of BitTorrent and similar protocols.

The official student newspaper of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently mourned the service with the following words:

"Ruckus was a valuable asset to this campus, helping to deter students from pirating music by offering them an acceptable and legal source of music. By providing students an alternative to illegally downloading music, it helped everyone; the Dean of Students Office had less work legislating issues regarding copyright laws, and the concern that students could be prosecuted for violating such intellectual property laws was diminished."


The Polytechnic Online even asked students to "refrain from downloading music illegally." However, it had an interesting suggestion what to do instead: Just use Seeqpod instead.

Of course, Seeqpod has been sued by Warner Music and EMI for alleged acts of infringement ...

03/01 2009 | 09:40 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Hacked web sites. Angry ABBA singers. Charges of media bias. Hundreds of flower bouquets for an expert who testified on behalf of the defense. The Swedish Pirate Bay trial has largely been an entertaining spectacle, especially for anyone who doesn’t speak Swedish. Both sides have been playing to the media, telling us that they’re winning and that their respective enemies are making a fool of themselves.

The truth, of course, is a little more complex. The trial has been going on for two weeks, and closing statements from both sides are due over the next few days. But don’t hold your breath for this to be over anytime soon. It could take weeks for the court to come up with a verdict, and the outcome is far less predictable than either side wants you to believe. Which is why in order to really find out what’s going on, we asked an expert. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.