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10/29 2009 | 10:43 PM
Posted by: Guest column
Dear Peter Mandelson,

I am writing to you regarding the #3strikes internet piracy legislation that you have recently confirmed.

I am involved in both the sectors of which you are taking such a damaging interest in, and although I don’t have the money to lobby on the same level as the music industry, I speak to you now as an investor. As an investor in the online world.

The analogue world is fleshy, simultaneously both tactile and ineffable. This is why we can invent concepts like money – you can hold on to it, and it can also be represented on pieces of paper, can change in value without changing in essence. The online world, on the other hand, is built on definite points, and logic. Oh it can contain the ineffable, just as infinity can be expressed as a value, but it’s built on single points, on values. If there is an online economy, its currency is information. And if we participate in online worlds, we are investing our information, our content in that world.

So I speak to you now, as an investor. I am a member of both the arts industry, and the online world. I work with arts companies on their online involvement, I blog opinion pieces and engage with politics and ethics, I write plays, and I am also researching art and digital technology. I may not be a big player, but I have a vested interest in online spaces that I participate in. I have a right to talk about how my share in these worlds is treated.

Despite the fact that your very own in depth Digital Britain report released in June 09 ruled out cutting off P2P sharers (“The most draconian penalty considered at the time was to slow down a persistent filesharer’s broadband connection”. Source) You continue to attempt to enforce a strategy that is at best foolish, and at worst illegal.

If, as you maintain, there are 7 million illegal files sharers in the UK, you must consider that you cannot cut off 7 million people’s internet connections without due process of law. It’s perfectly easy to piggy back on unsecured wireless connections, just as it is possible that a connection is shared by a building, a family, a business. Furthermore, are you proposing to process each illegal filesharer through the justice system? (And at the cost of the taxpayer – “Her Majesty’s Court System currently holds 200,000 criminal cases per year” source – how is it going to deal with millions)? Or are advocating a form of marshal law, where ISPs are sheriffs, and users are guilty until proven innocent?

Disconnecting people from the internet does not fully comply with EU legislation. In fact it directly contravenes EU legislation. I am referring to amendment 138/46 which [...] declared that access to the internet was a fundamental human right. source

You seem to be so eager for the Royal Mail to modernise, I wonder why you don’t see it equally as important for the music industry to do so?

I’d like to believe that the U-turn after the digital Britain report had nothing to do with your meeting meeting with one of the most powerful figures in the British music business, Lucian Grainge, the chairman of Universal Music – Source, soon after which you announced your resurrection of the draconian #3strikes, but it’s hard to understand why else you have decided to make this fallacious decision. And fallacious it is, the figures bandied about are bolstered by false accounting for losses to the creative industries, and even aside from the exaggerated and erroneous figures involved in the headlines (see Ben Goldacre’s excellent blog post for more) their maths is flawed at the point they assume every download is a lost sale.

Copyright was originally brought about in 1709 to “encourage the creation of artistic works by granting a right to copy for 14 years.” It now stands between 50 and 95 years Source. Its aim was to encourage a profession. I am not arguing for an artistic community that consists solely of amateurs, I understand, boy do I understand that artists need to be paid. But being paid is not the ends for which art is made, it is the encouragement. The leveller. Not the stick with which to beat the consumer.

I, and many of my peers are not calling for an end to the creative industries, we’re calling for changes to a very specific aspect of them – distribution. I’m not talking about some ‘choatic utopia’ (Source), what I am saying is the way that we consume is changing. Myspace, and Spotify have already changed the way that that we access music, and that artist distribute their wares. Youtube allows anyone with a camera and a computer to have their say. The Age of Stupid crowd-sourced the complete £450K production budget and are pioneering a system that allows anyone to buy a licence to screen it whenever and wherever they like – keeping the profits for themselves or their climate campaign.

Here’s a real industry perspective:

“The majority of my audiences watch my films over the BitTorrent system, a system so revolutionarily brilliant that it means I, an independent film-maker, can distribute a film in full High Definition to hundreds of millions of viewers with absolutely no cost incurred to me” – Monaghan Media source

And that of a consumer:

“Now, I muster all the spare cash I have to pay for an internet connection, and go to gigs as often as possible. I tell my mates (and a bunch of strangers on the interweb) about all the new bands I’ve heard of, and encourage them to see them live. So, I’m paying for the music I like, I’m paying the costs of distributing it, and I’m promoting it” source

P2P filesharing is revolutionary, it’s zero cost, close to zero in carbon emissions (servers), it runs on recommendations. It is another shift to the ‘pull’ ethic of the digital world. In a hyper-connected, information heavy existence, you cannot deliver neatly packaged tales of what we should buy and how we should be, because there are a million other voices that will simultaneously disagree. People taped music from CDs and radio before now, that’s been going on for years, what I believe really scares industry is the peer – peer review, peer sharing. Theirs is no longer dominant voice, we’re building our own worlds. Yes we need to deal with people who make a profit out of illegal filesharing, but criminalising a large proportion of your electorate is not the way to go about this.

A Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what you should be doing is using the Digital Britain report to offer big business a manual to the digital world. If they want to survive, they have to evolve, you are doing this country a disservice when you pander to their childish cries to stem the tide of change.

However, I have to say that so far these simple facts seem to have evaded you, you seem determined to press on. So let me tell you now that #3strikes will not work. Because we will not allow it to. No one will.

Aside from the impossibility of monitoring and prosecuting all (let’s call non-profiteering sharers ‘domestic’) p2p filesharers, we will stop you from penalising any of them. If you begin to cut off people’s internet access, then everyone who can afford to do so will set up alternative unsecured wireless networks across the country. If you aim to track torrent usage, we will proliferate details on how to obscure or re-route your IP address. If you shut down those sites, we will use private chat to discuss what we want, and private cloud storage systems, drop boxes, to share content. We will rename files, disguise track identites with a couple of bytes worth data, break meta-data, and come up with new ways of encrypting our actions. The industry will not only lose out on ‘sales’ but valuable usage figures too.

You are attempting to solve a digital problem using analogue solutions. We are open source, we are anonymous, and we are everywhere. Don’t fight us, don’t push, help dying industries reform, and remarket themselves in a sustainable way.

Here’s some further reading from prominent musicians/Bloggers:

http://www.stevelawson.net/wordpress/2009/10/featured-artist-coalition-backs-lily-wtf-says-everyone-else/

http://agit8.org.uk/?p=336

http://www.challengerappears.com/blog/2009/09/connection-failure-mandelson-takes-on-the-internet/

http://www.stephenfry.com/2009/07/27/series-2-episode-4-itunes-live-festival/

Please don’t make this mistake. Because you will regret it.

Kind regards,

Hannah Nicklin.

Hannah Nicklin is a brightly coloured playwright, tech-enthusiast, blogger and academic. Check out her work and blog at http://www.hannahnicklin.com, where this open letter appeared first. Republished with permission.


10/26 2009 | 05:39 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The two one-click hosting sites Rapidshare.com and Megaupload.com together cause more global IP traffic that Facebook with its 300 million users, according to a new study by network management device maker Sandvine.

The company's 2009 Global Broadband Phenomena report explains that Facebook is causing a little less than 1.5% of all global IP traffic. Both Rapidshare and Megauopload follow closely, each causing around 1% of global IP traffic. One-click hosting and similar storage sites saw 56% more traffic this year than 2008, according to Sandvine.

sandvine report

Sandivne's report also offers some insights about the share of traffic consumed by file sharing applications. On average, 31.4% of all upstream bandwidth and 15.6% of all downstream bandwidth are caused by P2P. Just a year ago, P2P caused 61.08% of all upstream bandwidth and 22.31% of all downstream bandwidth.

As I pointed out a couple of days ago with regards to a similar report, that doesn't necessarily mean that people aren't using P2P anymore. It just means that other segments are growing faster, the most obvious one being streaming video. Sandvine is reporting that Youtube is now causing 5% of all global IP traffic.

Perhaps more interesting are various regional differences. P2P only accounts for 8.6% of all traffic in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Sandvine, but for almost 35% in Africa. The company measured 29.2% in Europe, and 18.5% in North America. P2P is also causing around 35% of all traffic in Latin America, where Ares seems to play a huge role, causing around 34% of all upstream traffic on its own.

10/23 2009 | 09:38 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
This is hilarious: Will Ferrel's online comedy outlet Funny or Die has produced a spoof of those Windows 7 launch party ads ...
(via Newteevee Station)

10/23 2009 | 09:32 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
A criminal investigation has been launched against senior executives of YouTube and parent company Google in Hamburg, Germany, over allegations of copyright infringement, according to media reports from that country. The case started after a complaint by German music rights holders; Hamburg’s prosecutor has formally requested assistance from U.S. colleagues to compel YouTube to produce log files identifying who uploaded as well as who viewed 500 specific videos.

It’s unclear if the investigation will ever result in an actual court case. German prosecutors routinely throw out criminal investigations against copyright infringement, leaving it up to the parties involved to pursue civil lawsuits or settle out of court. The case does, however, once again demonstrate that Viacom’s massive one billion-dollar lawsuit isn’t the only copyright dispute Google has to tackle. There are regularly lawsuits all around the globe accusing YouTube and Google as running a worldwide video platform. Indeed, at a time when fragmented rights and universal access continue to collide, not irking rights holders seems impossible. Continue reading on Newteevee.com

10/19 2009 | 10:02 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Vuze's CEO Gilles Bianrosa joined 26 other CEOs and execs from new media companies like Google, Amazon and Skype today to support the FCC's upcoming net neutrality rules in an open letter to commission chairman Julius Genachowski. The letter reads in part:

"We believe a process that results in common sense baseline rules is critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a key engine of economic growth, innovation, and global competitiveness. (...) America’s leadership in the technology space has been due, in large part, to the open Internet. We applaud your leadership in initiating a process to develop rules to ensure that the qualities that have made the Internet so successful."


It's not a big surprise that Vuze would applaud new FCC net neutrality rules. In fact, that's exactly what the company called for when it filed a petition with the FCC over Comcast's Bittorrrent throttling back in early 2008. Vuze continued to push for this cause by releasing a plug-in to measure ISP interference with P2P protocols in March of 2008. Bianrosa writes about this today:

"As a small start-up, this government advocacy takes up valuable time, resources, and executive bandwidth. However, the Vuze team firmly believes that the net neutrality cause is well worth our efforts. (...) At the end of the day, Vuze simply wants a level playing field."

A little more surprising is perhaps that the letter was also signed by former Bittorrent Inc. president Ashwin Navin, whose then-employer teamed up with Comcast in early 2008, declaring "that these technical issues can be worked out through private business discussions without the need for government intervention." But hey, one can always change ones mind, right?

10/17 2009 | 01:41 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Network security vendor Arbor Networks has been drumming up publicity for its upcoming Internet Observatory Report this week. One of the widely reported tidbits is that P2P has “declined dramatically in the last two years,” and that it has been replaced by YouTube and other streaming video sites. Wired News took away from the report that “P2P is dead,” and ReadWriteWeb ran with the title: “So long, P2P, Hello Streaming Media.”

Findings like these are puzzling to anyone who’s been frequenting any of the big torrent sites lately. File sharers still seem to be as busy as ever, exchanging pretty much every movie and TV show episode you could think of. And didn’t Cisco just recently forecast that global P2P traffic will keep growing in years to come? Turns out, it’s all about how you interpret the numbers. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.


10/12 2009 | 12:20 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Somehow I missed Machsend when it got released in July, but it's worth a look, if only to see browser-based file sharing based on something else than Java.

null

Machsend makes it possible to share files directly through your browser. Just drag and drop a file onto the Machsend website, and it will generate a unique Url to share with your contacts. Files will be available as long as your browser is open. From the Machsend website:

"The transfers are peer to peer - straight between the two clients and aren't relayed or proxied."

Granted, this isn't exactly a new idea. There have been numerous browser-based P2P apps in the past, with some offering pretty much the same as Machsend, while others bring BitTorrent or even streaming video to the browser. One thing that makes Machsend unique is that it's based on Ruby and Yahoo's Browserplus extension. Browserplus is essentially a plug-in that gives web apps file acces and other desktop-like capabilities.

Also interesting for P2P enthusiasts: Machsend's developer recently blogged about how he is using TCP NAT traversal.

10/08 2009 | 11:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The folks behind the open-source video player Miro today launched VideoWTF, a site that aims to be something like a Yahoo Answers for the production side of all things newteevee. Don’t know what kind of camera to get? Unsure about whether to shoot interlaced or progressive? Looking for a place to chime in on the pros and cons of various MP4 flavors? Then VideoWTF is definitely worth checking out.

The site is built on Stack Overflow, an open-source CMS that combines Wiki-like functionality with a collaborative Q&A approach. In other words, anyone can post questions, provide answers, and vote on both — and everything can be edited to perfection. Stack Overflow has become really popular with programmers ever since it launched about a year ago, and the Miro folks believe that this format will be useful to video makers as well. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

10/06 2009 | 04:36 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Remember that 1984 Apple parody video that Techcrunch reported about the other day? It was a viral ad for Doubletwist, the company of Jon Johansen aka DVD Jon. The video was filmed in the style of the original Apple ad introducing the first Mac, witht he difference that the Orwell-esque big brother in this case wasn't IBM, but Steve Jobs himself. The ad ended with the promise:

"On October 6th, Doudbletwist brings you choice."

So what's choice? The Doubletwist website hasn't been completely updated yet, but you can already download the new release, if you're a Mac user, anyway. Turns out choice is something like iTunes lite.

doubletwist

The new version of Doubletwist comes complete with an integration of the Amazon MP3 store, making it possible for the first time to buy, download and sync music with your iPod that doesn't come from iTunes. The Amazon integration is very minimalist, which means you can't do much more than search for music and browse through the store's Top 100. That's probably enough for many users, but you'd still have to switch to Amazon's site (or iTunes, for that matter) if you wanted to preview songs.

Doubletwist also supports organizing your music in playlists, publishing photos to Facebook and Flickr, uploading videos to Youtube and syncing with a bunch of different devices aside from the iPod or iPhone.

10/05 2009 | 11:58 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Eastern Illinois University's administration has come up with a novel solution to dealing with those thousands of letters the RIAA and other rights holders have been sending complaining about copyright infringements: The school started to block all P2P traffic - except Bittorrent. From an article in the Daily Eastern News:

"Unlike other engines that provide little to no legally shared content, BitTorrent has been deemed a cost-effective alternative capable of delivering legitimate files to large audiences. The decision to exclusively support BitTorrent software on the school's network was put into effect over the summer in preparation for the fall term in compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008."

I'm not exactly sure that's what the authors of the law had in mind, but it does make sense, in a way. Not only is Bittorrrent used for a more diverse set of content than most traditional P2P networks, but it also changes the way people download files. The Daily Eastern News article features a RIAA letter complaining about the download of an individual Kate Perry song. The paper is reporting that Eastern Illinois University received at one point 2,200 seperate emails about such acts of infringements.

Bittorrent users on the other hand tend to download complete albums instead of individual songs, which means that at least in theory there should be fewer emails complaining about each single song at a time ...

What are you saying, my "wholesale infringement reduces the number of infringing acts" argument doesn't make any sense? Well, it's at least as logical as the approach Eastern Illinois University is using to educate people about file sharing. From the article:

"As with any file-sharing application, students need to be sure that the movie, music, book or application they are downloading through BitTorrent is a legal copy," (Adam Dodge, Eastern's information security officer) said. "Always remember, if you are downloading something for free that you would normally have to pay for, there is a 99.9 percent chance that it is an illegal copy."


10/04 2009 | 08:38 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bandwidth-conscious broadcasters have a new way to distribute their live video streams. A group of Uruguay-based P2P researchers recently released the first English-language version of their open-source P2P streaming application, GoalBit. The application, which is based on a BitTorrent-like architecture, aims to compete with P2P streaming services like PPLive and PPStream by giving anyone looking to distribute their own live video programming a way to do so.

GoalBit, which is available for Windows and Linux, currently features just a handful of Uruguay’s TV networks streaming at fairly low bitrates. But the service looks promising nonetheless, and its extensive documentation could be intriguing to anyone interested in P2P streaming.

10/01 2009 | 11:19 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Dutch public broadcaster VPRO is making a new documentary series dubbed "Century of the cities" available via Bittorrent. The network has already uploaded torrrents for the first two parts of the series to Mininova, where currently a few dozen users are seeding the files.

vpro documentary on mininova

Century of the cities aims to highlight the ongoing worldwide urbanization by looking at cities like South Africa's Johannesburg and India's Gurgaon, also know as the call center capital of the world. A third episode focusing on people moving to big cities in various parts of the world will be made available for download in the near future. All episodes are available in English via Mininova, and a Dutch version as well as DVD covers for each epsiode can be downloaded directly from VPRO's website.

Each episode is licensed under the terms of a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-SA), which means that it can be freely redistributed over file sharing networks. Users can even remix the videos, as long as they adhere to the specific terms of the license.

VPRO is using Mininova's Content Distribution service to seed the videos. This is the first time that a Dutch broadcaster has made use of Mininova to distribute its programming via Bittorrent, but it's not entirely without precedence in the world of public television: Canada's CBC has been using Mininova to make downloads of its show Canada's next Prime Minister available for download.