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07/30 2009 | 05:16 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I had the great pleasure to interview the L.A.-based copyright lawyer Josh Wattles for Elektrischer Reporter a couple of months ago. We talked half an hour or so, and two or three sentences of that conversation actually made it on TV in Germany. I'm kidding, it was a little more, but TV is obviously a fast-past medium. The net on the other hand is without boundaries and time limits, you know the spiel.

To keep a long story short: Elektrische Reporter just published a longer cut of the interview. This one is not dubbed but subtitled, so it's digestible for an English-language audience as well. Here you go:

Elektrischer Reporter – Josh Wattles: “Wenn neue Technologien auftauchen, muss man Gesetze anpassen”




07/30 2009 | 12:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Dutch rights holders were able to obtain a preliminary injunction against the Pirate Bay today, with the court demanding the site be shut down in the Netherlands within 10 days and instituting stiff penalties in the case of non-compliance. Pirate Bay administrators named in the lawsuit have already announced they’re going to appeal the ruling. Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde also tweeted that the ruling is technically unenforceable.

A lot of surreal drama has been surrounding this case, with Dutch rights holders summoning the defendants via Facebook and Twitter and the recipients of these messages claiming that they just have too many friend requests to notice such things. But all jokes aside, things aren’t really looking up for the Pirate Bay crew. Not only are they still facing yet another lawsuit brought against them this week by the MPAA, the Dutch injunction could also lead to a troubling domino effect of lawsuits in various jurisdictions, making it even harder to complete the pending sale of the site. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

07/29 2009 | 11:12 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The anti-P2P scaremongering has reached new heights with today's House Government Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing on inadvertent file sharing, also known as the "I shared what???" problem.

Inadvertent file sharing has been all over the news in recent months. A security company supposedly found blueprints of Obama's helicopter, the First Lady's security protocol and tens of thousands of social security numbers on file sharing networks. Much of the blame for this has been laid on Limewire, with the Progress and Freedom Foundation's Thomas Sydnor recently reporting that Limewire's version 5.0 is more dangerous than ever, despite the fact that it's close to impossible to accidentally share PDF or DOC files with that version.

Limewire CEO Mark Gorton used today's hearing to point out that there are many other P2P clients out there which are not controlled by his company, according to a CBS News report.

That message seemed to resonate with Democratic congressman Bill Foster, who has been described as "more technically-inclined than most politicians" by CBS News. His idea to solve the inadvertent file sharing problem if Limewire can't solve it alone? Block Gnutella nation-wide.

Of course, being the tech-savvy physicist that he is, Foster must have quickly realized that such a Chinese firewall-like solution wouldn't really work for the US, which is why he came up with another interesting idea. From the CBS News article:

"Another option, he said, would be to create a new version of the Gnutella protocol that allowed only limited clients -- that curbed what folders or filetypes could be shared -- to connect to it."


Yep, you heard it right. Foster wants the government to rewrite Gnutella. Good luck with that.

07/28 2009 | 11:15 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau (Antipiratybyran) has become something like the arch-nemesis of the Pirate Bay. The organization, founded by rights holders, has been pushing for the closure of the torrent tracker and other P2P community sites for years. In fact, its aggressive anti-P2P rhetoric prompted the founding of the Piratbyran, which later gave birth to the Pirate Bay.

antipiratbyran

So why is Antipiratbyran operating a site called Antipiratbyran.org with the tag line "we love the Internet" that tries to shine a light on unscrupulous anti-piracy enforcement efforts? Well, it's not, actually. Antipiratbyran's website can be found online under Antipiratbyran.se, but the group forgot to register or renew Antipiratbyran.org somewhere down the line.

Antipiratbyran.org belonged to a US company for a couple of years, but recently changed hands and is now run by a group of Swedish net activists. This is how Google translates the about section of the site:

"Antipiratbyran.org is a consumer side to want to inform about the illegal practices conducted by the Swedish Anti-Piracy Office. We are concerned citizens in this way want to make our voice heard about what we think of these methods."


This isn't the first time Swedish activists are having fun with anti-piracy domains. The folks from the Pirate Bay briefly took over the domain IFPI.com to transform it into the web presence of the "International Federation of Pirate Interests" in 2007.

07/25 2009 | 11:49 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Keep your hands where we can see them! Warner Bros. Pictures is resorting to drastic measures to prevent unauthorized video recordings of its newest Harry Potter epic. Security guards in Germany have been using night vision goggles in theaters running Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to find camcorders that might be otherwise hard to spot once the theater lights are off.

This isn’t the first time Warner has tried to protect Harry with peeping Toms. UK audiences were subjected to a similar treatment in 2004 to prevent the recording of The Prisoner of Azkaban. The measures caused quite a stir back then, and German Potter fans and privacy advocates are equally upset this time around. German officials have already announced that they plan to investigate Warner’s measures. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

07/24 2009 | 02:46 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
News that the retail version of Windows 7 has leaked to Bittorrent sites was all over the web in the last few days. Microsoft officially released this so called RTM-version to manufacturers on Wednesday, but torrent sites supposedly have been distributing the same version for about a week now. So how can downloaders be sure that they get a genuine Windows 7 copy, and not some rogue version full of malware?

Microsoft to the rescue! A member of the software giant's German subsidiary published a list of SHA1-hashes and CRC-values for various available image files on his Technet.com blog yesterday. The blog entry describes a total of four versions, which are listed like this:

"Windows 7 Retail Ultimate E englisch (x86)
Name: 7600.16385.090713-1255_x86fre_cliente_en-us_Retail_UltimateE-GRMCEULFRER_EN_DVD.iso
CRC: 0x953EFBCC
SHA-1: 0xBC10F09B86DCBAF35B31B0E6FBA7D006ACAAD28D"


Torrent users - and anyone else who needs to make sure he got the right version - can use this list to verify the authenticity of their downloads, and pass on anything that doesn't seem to be kosher. Microsoft even provides its own checksum integrity verifyer utility for these kind of verifications.

The blog entry, which is in German, doesn't really mention piracy or torrent sites at all, and instead simply refers to "a lot of speculation" about the version number of Winodws 7 and similar issues. It does however close with the following words:

"Have fun!"


Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. So why would Microsoft do this? It's possible that the company has realized that problems caused by rogue copies could do far more harm than a few users that opt to torrrent their copy. Add to this the fact that you'd still need to activate this copy with a genuine key, and there's really not much to lose for Microsoft by lending pirates a helping hand.

07/24 2009 | 09:30 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Pirate Bay has been front and center of the blog and mainstream tech news cycle over the last month, ever since the site’s founders announced they had found a buyer. Hardly a day goes by without new and oftentimes conflicting reports about the impending sale. First it’s off, then back on. One day the site’s founders seem to get out of P2P, the next it appears they’re trying to take it to the next level. Also conflicting are reports about the Bay’s new business model. Is it weird and delusional, as Business Week and Torrentfreak surmised, or extremely innovative, as CNET proclaimed?

A European copyright association was so confused by all the back and forth that it already celebrated “the closure of the Pirate Bay” earlier this week. Sorry to break it to you, guys, but the site is very much up and running. Aside from that, however, hardly anything is certain. But we’ll give it our best shot at summing up and explaining all of the recent news, including the status of the sale, the way you’ll pay for your Pirate Bay downloads in the future and the odd tale of the court summons via Twitter. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

07/23 2009 | 09:14 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Korean serch engines and portal sites have agreed to ban ads of P2P and web-based file sharing services, according to a report from Etnews.co.kr. The article is admittedly not very clear on the details, but it seems like major search and content portals like Daum.net and Naver.com have agreed to not publish any ads for file sharing services on their sites anymore. Major advertising networks seem to be in the mix as well. From the article:

"Overture Korea, the largest ad agency, stopped ads, Google Korea is preparing for related policies. In fact, web hard and P2P ads will be eliminated from most local internet services."


Korea has been sort of a unique case in terms of file sharing for a number of years. 90 percent of Korea's households have broadband connectivity, with speeds typically around 40 to 50 Mbit. However, Koreans don't really use these ultra-fast connections for P2P file sharing. Instead, they simply upload content to web-based storage services, also known as webhard services.

Some of these services are operated by reputable technology companies. Webhard.co.kr is for example run by LG, and it apparently won't have to fear the new advertising ban:

"(P)ortal companies would stop illegal webhard and P2P ads but (..) webhard for individual storage will be continued regardless of copy right material distribution."


07/22 2009 | 12:42 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The European Anti-Piracy Association (AEPOC) is idemanding that European governments and the EU take a strong stance against piracy. The group, which was founded by cable and satellite TV operators, especially views the recent electoral success of the Pirate Party as an alarm signal for an increasing acceptance of piracy. ""Piracy is not a sport, it remains a theft. The election of the Pirate Party shows there is confusion among voters on this matter," said AEPOC Jean Grenier in a recently published press release.

AEPOC is essentially an industry association of companies that make money with encrypted and otherwise protected TV signals. It counts Rupert Murdoch's British BSkyB network, German Pay-TV provider Premiere as well as technology companies like Motorola and Philips as its members.

The group has mostly been focusing on the fight against illegal pay-TV decoders, but lately it seems to be extending its focus on file sharing as well, and the fact that the Swedish Pirate party was able to get a seat in the EU parliament seems to really bug AEPOC. A success, by the way, that the organization wrongfully attributes to "the closure of 'The Pirate Bay' filesharing website by a Swedish court in April."

The association may not have all its facts straight, but it's nonetheless demanding that politicians and creative industries should draw a clear line against copyright infringement. Confusing people about the legality of file sharing could lead to the Internet becoming a lawless territory. The press release quotes Jean Grenier adding:

"This is particularly relevant with regard to the younger members of our society who are susceptible to the message of the Pirate Party, a message which appears romantic, yet is criminal at its core."


There you have it. Calling for copyright reform is criminal. That Lawrence Lessig guy better watch his mouth!

(via gulli)

07/22 2009 | 12:02 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Limewire is going to officially release version 5.2 of its file sharing client later today. One of the new features is an advanced integration with Facebook that makes it possible to share files with any of your Facebook friends - as long as they also use Limewire, that is.

limewire facebook integration

Limewire introduced the concept of private sharing with the release of version 5.0 last fall, which made it possible to connect to friends via Google Talk or other Jabber services and selectively share files with them.

The new version adds an option to log in with your Facebook credentials and access your Facebook friends list. You can browse your friends' files in case they're running Limewire as well, or simply chat with them if they're logged into the Facebook website and you're trying to get them to fire up Limewire.

Integrating Facebook with Limewire is interesting, especially since this is very much an idea that the Facebook founders at some point had themselves. Facebook launched its own file sharing client, dubbed Wirehog, in 2004. Wirhog allowed users to share files with friends, much like Limewire does now. Facebook shut down the service in early 2006, probably at the request of investors who were worried about copyright infringement lawsuits.

Facebook integration isn't the only new feature of Limewire 5.2. The client also features an improved Bittorrent integration based on the libtorrent library and a slightly revamped interface.

The most significant change is probably that the side bar listing all of your contacts is gone. I had a chance to talk to Limewire's product manager Nathan Lovejoy a couple weeks ago about these changes, and he told me that the company realized that it should not compete with existing IM clients or buddy lists. The goal was instead to make friends a more integral part of the application as a whole. Search for something, and you friend's files will automatically be searched as well.

private sharing in limewire 5.2

Limwire also redesigned the process of sharing files itself, which is now much closer to an iTunes library and playlist experience. The client offers by default three lists of files in its sidebar: "Library" lists all your files, "Public Shared" are all the files that you're sharing with the whole P2P network, and "Private Shared" are, you guessed it, files that are shared with only a few select friends. You can always add your own lists to selectively share pictures with family members or office files with co-workers.

Limewire got previously criticized for making it too easy to accidentally share files with the world, but version 5.2 seems to be pretty much fool-proof. There's no button anymore to share files in bulk. Instead, you'd need to either drag them all to your Public Shared list or mark them and enable public sharing with a right-click on the appropriate option.

Of course, there's always room for improvement, and one of the features I'd like to see from future versions is the ability to log into multiple accounts at the same time so that I can share files with contacts on Facebook as well as Google Talk.

It will also be interesting to see what kinds of services Limewire will be adding next. Twitter maybe? That could be a tough one, because the social dynamics on Twitter are fundamentally different than on Facebook or other social networks. Do you want to share files with all of your followers, the people you follow, or everyone? Tough questions, but I'm sure someone at Limewire is already trying to find answers.

07/21 2009 | 11:21 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
My colleague Stacey Higginbotham reported at Gigaom today that P2P is putting an increasing strain on mobile data networks. A new report from DPI gear maker Allot Networks shows that P2P already amounts for 21 percent of mobile data traffic on average, and even 41 percent amongst heavy users. From the article:

"(W)ired and wireless data consumption patterns will increasingly mirror one another. That includes some subscribers’ love of P2P sharing."

Does that mean mobile networks are doomed? Well, maybe not. Turns out that P2P may already cause a lot of traffic, but it doesn't actually eat up that many resources. Here's what Business Week had to say about this yesterday:

"E-mail puts a much heavier load on 3G networks than Web surfing or peer-to-peer applications, according to Alcatel-Lucent (ALU)'s research wing, Bell Laboratories."


So, what is it? Is P2P killing mobile networks, or is it plain old e-mail? It really depends on what you look at. The volume of data transferred is one indicator, but the way applications utilize the network is another.

I've heard this argument from ISPs before. They don't like too many P2P users completely maxing out their bandwidth 24/7, but the P2P traffic itself is something they can live with. It's a very predictable, constant flow of traffic that doesn't show many spikes.

Video and web usage on the other hand can be very erratic, capable showing lots of unpredictable spikes during the day and mostly dying down at night. Things like these are even more important if you're dealing with networks that have much less excess capacity and more points of failure, like cell phone towers. From the Business Week article:

"Mobile email consumes around 69% of a wireless data network's signalling resources, despite only accounting for around 4% of the volume of data carried by the network."


Maybe mobile network operators should start throtteling e-mail ...

07/20 2009 | 02:02 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
KaZaA, whose once-popular file-sharing service was shut down in 2006 as part of a settlement with the music industry, is back in the headlines. Now it’s said to be launching a web-based legal music download service with the support of all four major labels. Sounds like a great story, especially in light of The Pirate Bay’s efforts to go legit. If only it were true. Continue reading on Gigaom.com.

07/19 2009 | 12:14 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Much has been written in recent weeks about the future of The Pirate Bay, as well as about BitTorrent piracy in general. The sale of the site spooked some, while others are hoping to transform the new Pirate Bay into a legitimate, multimillion-dollar business. One aspect that has been largely overlooked is that the current Pirate Bay, due to the nature of P2P, is actually a relatively small and cost-efficient operation. The site’s trackers facilitate countless downloads of Hollywood blockbusters and music albums, but according to an insider, running these trackers could cost as little as $3,000 per month.

The implications of a number like that are huge. Not only does it mean that anyone with a medium-sized checkbook could replicate The Pirate Bay’s infrastructure in a heartbeat, but it also casts shadows over the hopes of anyone thinking about selling digital content online. Music fans were not longer willing to pay $20 for audio CDs once they noticed that blank CDs only cost a dime. How are they going to feel about download stores knowing that running the world’s biggest download service is that dirt cheap? Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

07/17 2009 | 04:36 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The RIAA may have stopped its lawsuits against file sharers, but that doesn't mean there isn't anyone anymore trying to make a buck off of your media consumption habits: Starting August 1st, students of the Louisiana State University will face fines of 50 dollars if they're caught sharing files through the school's network, according to a report by the school's paper, the Daily Reveille. From the article:

"Sheri Thompson, IT planning and communications officer, said she understands a typical RIAA subpoena to be $4,000. (...) '$50 isn’t $4,000 and isn’t debilitating and going to be the difference between them being able to live their life fully,' Thompson said."

Of course, the irony is that the school is starting with these fines half a year after the RIAA abandoned its mass lawsuit strategy.

LSU registered 200 DMCA notices in 2008, according to the article. That means the school could make 10,000 bucks from going after file sharers. Not exactly enough to solve a budget crisis, but certainly a nice little bonus.

Maybe even enough for LSU staff to come up with its own resources about file sharing so that they don't have to link to Slyck and Zeropaid anymore. :)

07/16 2009 | 04:22 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The admins of the German Rapidshare link forum Leecher.to were probably a little uneasy at first when they recently received a letter from a record company in regards to a pre-release leak. The label in question told them that it had found a link to a house remix of a previously unreleased song by the German rapper Hassan Annouri.

However, Annouri's label didn't insist on taking down the song, and it didn't threaten them with any expensive lawsuits either. Instead, it concluded that it was too late to take any action because the genie was already out of the bottle, and expressed the hope that some of the users who downloaded the song would buy Annouri's upcoming record. "Good music doesn't have to be afraid of file sharing," the letter stated, adding that the label would rather make money by selling music instead of hunting down file sharers.

Leecher.to responded by adding Annouri's music video to its front page.



There has been some suspicion within the Leecher.to user base that the friendly letter isn't all there is to this story. Some think Annouri's label may have paid Leecher.to some money to advertise his music. Either way, it shows that Annouri knows where to find his fans, and that musicians like him are increasingly unafraid to embrace file sharing.

(via gulli)

07/15 2009 | 02:24 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It’s been a month since browser maker Opera announced Opera Unite to much fanfare, and it’s about time for a reality check: Its users have been struggling to access the browser’s new server functions in recent days, with file-sharing services unavailable and personal web pages returning server errors. At fault is Unite’s proxy architecture, which was supposed to make networking your browser easier, but has been unreliable at best. Add to this the fact that personal Unite pages have been showing up on Google, and you start to wonder what Opera really meant when it claimed to “reinvent the web” with Unite — start from scratch with a shaky architecture and unresolved privacy issues, just like in the early ’90s? Continue reading on Gigaom.com.

07/15 2009 | 10:22 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Tired of all those Russian mp3 sites that use some odd legal loopholes to sell you MP3s for 10 cents a pop? Well, how about this for a new take on creative interpretation of the law: The Antigua-based music and movie site Zookz.com is offering DRM-free music and movies for 10 bucks a month without striking deals with rights holders, and instead referring to a WTO ruling that allows Antigua to violate US copyrights. The L.A. Times has more:

"Copyright holders say the WTO ruling doesn't give companies in Antigua a free pass to violate the copyright laws of Antigua or any other nation, or other international copyright treaties that Antigua has agreed to. (...) It's not clear what, in fact, the ruling would let Antiguan firms do."

It's fascinating story, which is probably one of the reasons why Zookz decided to use it as its legal defense. And Zookz is admittedly in a unique position: It may not be legal, even by Antiguan or WTO standards, but I don't think the Antiguan government would be too eager to enforce copyrights on the US' behalf right now.

07/14 2009 | 10:13 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Pirate Bay’s impending sale has been worrying BitTorrent users around the world. One reason for these worries is that the Swedish pirate platform has been the backbone of many of the web’s BitTorrent sites and communities. Take the Pirate Bay’s tracker servers away, and sites like Mininova would be left in a dry spell, with users unable to download pretty much anything at all.

However, two weeks after the announcement of the sale, it looks like the often-feared BitTorrent meltdown won’t happen. Not only are new trackers popping up everywhere, ready to fill the gap, but there’s also some new technology that could help interconnect these trackers to a giant, federated mesh network without any single point of failure. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

07/13 2009 | 06:39 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I'm usually not a big fan of third-party Twitter services that don't use OAuth (as frequent readers of this blog surely know), but I do have a soft spot for weird Yahoo Pipes mash-ups (as long-time readers of this blog might remember), which is why I think that the Magnettweet Pipe is actually pretty cool.

magnettweet

It does what it says which is tweeting about a magnet link and then using some Tinyurl magic to actually start the download, provided that you have Limewire set as the default program to open magnet links. And it seems to work most of the time ...

So who did this little hack? Well, none other than Jason Herskowitz, Limewire's new Vice President of Product Management. Good to see someone still hands-on involved despite having such a fancy job title.

07/10 2009 | 09:55 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Oh, Canada: Your health care is universal, your forests are green, and your creative industries are against BitTorrent throttling. The Canadian Film & Television Production Association (CFTPA) and two other trade groups representing filmmakers and TV producers testified in support of net neutrality in front of the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this week. The CRTC has been conducting hearings to look into Bell, Rogers and other Canadian ISPs throttling their subscribers’ BitTorrent traffic.

Bell’s BitTorrent throttling is very similar to what Comcast tried in the U.S. until it got forced by the FCC to stop interfering with torrent transmissions. However, the reactions from entertainment industry representatives were very different on this side of the border. The MPAA and NBC Universal came out in support of Comcast, making clear that they viewed BitTorrent throttling as the first step towards a world in which ISPs are proactively policing their networks against copyright infringement. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

07/09 2009 | 03:57 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
All eyes have been on the Pirate Bay in recent weeks, but the Swedish pirates aren't the only ones forced to radical changes due to increased pressure of rights holders. The Dutch torrent site Mininova.org has been defending itself in court since early June, with a verdict due at the end of August.

Mininova has started to take a more proactive approach against infringement, filtering out infringing torrents much like Youtube is filtering its uploads. The Mininova staff described these filters this way:

"(L)ikely infringing video files referred to by torrents are checked by a third party content recognition system. If the system finds that the file corresponds to unauthorized content, we remove and block the torrent that refers to this file on Mininova."

The announcement was met with a lot of skepticism from Mininova's users, with many users denouncing it as suicde. Well, guess what: It's two months later, and Mininova is still very much alive. The site clocked almost 45 million uniques and over 628 million page views last month. However, there are some early signs for users abandoning the site because of the filters.



Most websites have pretty heavy seasonal ups and downs. That's traditionally also been true for file sharing communities and services, which usually tend to get much less traffic during the summer months. Kids that travel don't download that much. You can see that Mininova had some of those seasonal ups and downs earlier this year as well.

However, Mininova had a clear dip in page views in June. Page views were down by almost 14 percent month-to-month. Visits declined only by ten percent, which seems to be an indicator for users spending less time and clicking on less links on the site.

The next few months could be make or break for Mininova. Back to school will be a good indicator on whether users are coming back to the site or switch to torrent sites without filters, and any court decision that would force Mininova to even slightly stricter controls could spell trouble for the site.

07/08 2009 | 12:59 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Washington-based conservative Progress and Freedom Foundation has published a study titled "Inadvertent File-Sharing Re-Invented: The Dangerous Design of LimeWire 5" today that makes Limewire sound like the most dangerous application ever.

Limewire's features help "identity thieves, pedophiles, terrorists, and spies," "can also grant reduced jail sentences to dangerous pedophiles," and "knowingly (inflict harm) upon children and their families," according to the study. Scary stuff, all thanks to what has been called inadvertent file sharing, meaning that users share some files they didn't really mean to.

Limewire has gotten some heat for inadvertent file sharing before. There've been congressional hearings about the subject, including one earlier this year. The company responded to its critics by redefining the way its new version 5.0 shares files - but that didn't please the Progress and Freedom Foundation's Thomas Sydnor. "No prior version of LimeWire inflicted such serious risks upon so many of its users and their families," he writes in the new report.

So what is all of this about? Limewire 5 introduced the idea of a content library that by default isn't shared with anyone. Users have to take an extra step to select files within the library and share them to make them available for download via the Gnutella network. At the core of Sydnor's criticism is a feature that makes it possible to share bulk selections of these files by clicking on "share all with P2P network":

"The design of LimeWire 5 centers upon a premise that verges upon lunacy: LimeWire 5 presumes that most users really want to be one click away from “sharing” all of the audio, video, image, and, (perhaps) document files stored in their My Documents folders and all of its subfolders—in other words, their entire collections of popular music and movies; all of their family photos; all of their home videos; and many or all of their scanned or faxed business, medical, legal, and identifying documents. "


Of course, one could debate whether the option "share all with P2P network" is really that unclear. Sydnor thinks that it's written so small that you could easily get confused and share everything when you'd want to unshare all of your files.

He forgets however to mention that Limewire 5 offers multiple ways of monitoring which files you're sharing. Each and every file comes with an icon that visualizes its status. It's green if you share it and grey if you don't. Secondly, there's a whole menu entry in the side bar called "P2P network." Click on it, and you'll see all the files you are sharing with the world in one list. Doesn't really get any easier than that.

But that's not all. Did you notice how Sydnor writes that users "(perhaps)" share documents by accident. That's because by defition they don't. Limewire makes it impossible to share any pdf, txt, doc or xls files through Gnutella without changing a setting under "Tools > Options > Security > Unsafe Categories." Hard to do that accidentally. However, Sydnor has still found a way how users can expose some personal data:

"Most consumer and business scanners and multi-function copier-printers can save scanned documents in bitmap, TIFF or JPEG formats. Scanned documents can include very sensitive or personal records like tax returns, business records, financial data, legal documents, medical records, lists of account numbers and passwords, and identifying documents."

Sure, that's possible, even though I'd assume that most scanners by default save documents as PDF files nowadays. However, users still have to explicitly share these files. One should probably also point out that all of the previous stories about massive breaches through inadvertent file sharing focused on actual document files. The blueprint of Obama's helicopter wasn't leaked through a scanned BMP file, and those 150,000 tax returns that the Today Show supposedly found on P2P networks weren't JPEGs either.

But wait, that's not all: Sydnor stretches the definition of sensitive information even further:

"By definition, most music collections will tend to contain a lot of popular music—and almost none of it will be legal to “share” over the Gnutella network. Consequently, when entire collections can be “shared” at once, audio files become 'sensitive.'"


Riiiiight. Michael Jackson MP3s are pretty much the same as Social Security numbers ...

It's not really a surprise that Sydnor deems audio files that valuable. The Progress and Freedom Foundation foundation has a track record of copyright maximalism, and one has to wonder whether its repeated attacks against Limewire aren't really just attempts to rid the net of copyright infringement.

The foundation is funded by entertainment industry heavyweights like EMI, Viacom, Vivendi and Sony Music. Those companies apparently pay enough money to fund 27-page studies that boil down to one single point of criticism: Limewire 5 has a "share all" feature that may or may not be used to accidentally share files.

Well, I got good news for Mr. Sydnor. I've recently had a chance to take a look at the upcoming Limewire version 5.2, which includes further refinements of the new Limewire UI. One of them is that the "share all" button is gone. Somehow I doubt that this will stop Thomas Sydnor from plotting new attacks against Limewire ...

07/07 2009 | 11:38 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Remember Kazaa? I know, it's been a while. Kazaa used to be one of the most popular P2P applications, until Edonkey and Emule and eventually Bittorrent came along to offer better ways to download media files. And then there was that lawsuit, resulting in an expensive settlement as well as the commitment to stop unlicensed file sharing on its network.

But that didn't stop the owners of Kazaa from trying to cash in on the popular name. Sharman Networks and Brilliant Digital Entertainment have converted Kazaa.com into music download store that essentially resells subscriptions of DRM-protected Medianet (formerly known as Musicnet) music downloads.

Those downloads can only be played with a Windows Media Player, and they come with a pretty hefty price tag: Kazaa charges you about 20 bucks per month for its music service. Just a quick comparison: Rhapsody Unlimited costs $12.99, and Napster.com only charges 5 bucks per month.

So how does Kazaa compete? Through heavy advertising via Google (you might have seen some of their ads on this blog as well), and questionable SEO marketing. Case in point: Brilliant Digital sent out a press release through PRWeb today that touts a new option to share HD home movies. The whole thing doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and in fact the new feature isn't even mentioned on Kazaa.com.

But that's not really why the company invested a few bucks in PR. The great thing about PRWeb is that you can include links in your press releases, and Kazaa's contains multiple links, with terms like "free music download" linking to its website. That's good for Google juice, but bad for people who actually look for free music: Kazaa.com offers its subscribers a free seven day test period, but each downloaded track will stop working soon after you cancel that subscription.

But wait, that's not all. The company also decided to include a really odd endorsement of its product in the press release, presumably to fill the gaps between those SEO links. Here's what they came up with:

"Jonathan James, Web Hacker spoke of the endless possibilities the software provides to the Kazaa community "They are going to come at you like they came at 'tereastarr,'" he said."

And here's what's wrong with that:

Tereastarr was the Kazaa user name of Jamie Thomas, who has just been sentenced to 1.9 million dollars in damages for trading music via Kazaa's former P2P client. She might not feel all that happy about being part of Kazaa's marketing campaign, but one also has to wonder what this endorsement is supposed to say: Subscribe to Kazaa's overpriced service, and you'll get sued anyhow?

The quote itself actually doesn't come from Jonathan James, but from Thomas' defense attorney Joe Sibley, who used it in her trial, according to AP.

So who is Jonathan James? It's obviously a pretty common name, but there probably aren't too many hackers called Jonathan James. In fact, I can only think of one right now. Jonathan Joseph James was conviceted of breaking into Nasa computers in 2000, and eventually committed suicide in 2008.

Whoops. That would have been a major PR blunder for any reputable company. Good thing nobody really remembers Kazaa.

07/05 2009 | 02:57 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
News of the Pirate Bay’s impending sale has worried file sharers around the world. Rights holders on the other hand seem to be somewhat optimistic, hoping that the deal will put an end to the world’s largest file-swapping platform. But history has shown again and again that the demise of popular P2P sites and systems doesn’t lead to less file swapping. On the contrary, the gap is oftentimes filled with more sophisticated systems.

It’s been 10 years since Napster, and some record company executives seem to have slowly realized that they should have struck a deal with the original music-swapping service instead of pushing users to Gnutella, Kazaa, eMule and eventually BitTorrent. Letting the Pirate Bay with its up to 25 million concurrent users die could be another mistake just as big as the failure to embrace Napster. Granted, saving and monetizing the Pirate Bay may be close to impossible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

07/02 2009 | 03:19 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Would you pay ten bucks per month for the chance to access thousands of school papers that your teachers won't find with a simple Google search? Essayrunner.com is betting that some folks will, and it is using the Gnutella P2P network to build a business based on this idea.

essayrunner

The site is basically a giant archive of essays, currently promising access to over 140,000 school papers. There are dozens of essay sites with names like Duenow.com out there, and many students have started to upload papers to sites like Scribd. Essayrunner however offers an interesting twist: The site scours the Gnutella P2P network for essays shared via Limewire and similar file sharing clients. From Essayrunner.com:

"Because of Limewire's complex distributed nature most of the essays are not available on the network at any given time. EssayRunner scours the network for files 24 hours a day 7 days a week so you don't have to. EssayRunner is a mirror for Limewire content. "

A site like Essayrunner obviously brings up a whole bunch of legal issues. Most people use Limewire to download music and videos, and documents are more often than not shared accidentally (in fact, newer versions of Limewire don't share any documents by default to prevent inadvertent file sharing.)

Essayrunner does have a take-down policy, promising to remove any content at the request of the original author, but one has to wonder whether such an author will ever know that their articles are hosted on Essayrunner in the first place.

But wait, that's not all: Adding to the murky picture is the fact that the owner of the Essayrunner.com domain previously tried to spam file sharing networks in order to prevent copyright infringement. He started a Sourceforge project called kNewt about a year ago that was supposed to scour torrent sites for popular file names and then pollute Gnutella with fake files using these names. From the kNewt website:

"For several years open source developers have continued to release versions of p2p software that protect against varied threats, such as spam, but fail to prevent the distribution of copyright files. Should open source software create problems or solve them? Should open source solutions that are mainly used to subvert copyrights be hosted on sourceforge?"


Luckily, his plea for deleopers to "corrode the effectiveness of the Gnutella network to distribute pirated works" got completely ignored, and kNewt never evolved beyond the concept stage. After all, how would Essayrunner have found all those papers in a network of rusty tubes?

07/01 2009 | 12:39 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
France's government is gearing up for a new version of the controversial HADOPI legislation that would force ISPs to disconnect file sharers after three offenses. HADOPI's original version was struck down by France's Constritutional Council earlier this month because it enabled rights holders to police P2P networks without a judge's oversight. The council ruled that this procedure, also known as Three Strikes, was unconstitutional because it didn't guarantee suspected offenders a fair trial.

A new version of the law currently proposed by the French government would address these concerns by having a judge decide whether or not a file sharer should be disconnected. These decisions would however be made in a fast track trial that would only give a judge five minutes for each case on average. All in all, each case should require about 45 minutes of work, according to an official government study, Futurezone.at is reporting.

That doesn't sound like much time at all, but it still adds up, especially if you want put a dent into the phenomenon of millions of users sharing files online. The original HADOPI plans called for 250,000 blocked Internet accounts per year. The new proposal is slightly less ambitious and only calls for 50,000 decisions per year. The government study still estimates that it would take 109 new full-time positions, including 26 judges, to deal with these cases. One can easily imagine the total cost to reach tens of millions of dollars.

We'll have to wait and see whether French politicians are still eager to support the bill with this price tag attached. France wouldn't be the first country to drop Three Strikes because it's simply too expensive. British regulators estimated earlier this year that implementing Three Strikes would cost about 2.5 million GBP per year. The UK government eventually abandoned the idea of Three Strikes and is now favoring solutions that would require less oversight.