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01/28 2010 | 02:03 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The U.K.'s consumer rights group Which? (sort of like Consumer Reports in the U.S.) came out with a press release this week that puts some serious doubts on proposed plans to fight P2P piracy with Three Strikes. More than 150 consumers contacted the group in recent months because they have been wrongfully accused of P2P piracy by London-based law firm ACS Law. From the press release:

"One wrote: 'My 78 year old father yesterday received a letter from ACS law demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have downloaded. He doesnít even know what file sharing or bittorrent is so has certainly not done this himself or given anyone else permission to use his computer to do such a thing.'"

ACS Law is working with companies like Logistep to hunt down alleged file sharers and then send them letters that threaten with a lawsuit unless they pay steep fines. The practice has been frequently criticized. In fact, Torrentfreak just reported that UK Lords just called this type of copyright enforcement a scam and legal blackmail.

However, Which's findings have implications beyond the questionable tactics used by companies like ACS Law. U.K. politicians are currently debating a law that would force ISPs to disconnect alleged file sharers after a series of warnings - something that's also commonly known as Three Strikes.

However, if a single law firm representing just a small number of clients gets it wrong in so many cases - how many false positives would a concerted enforcement effort initiated by Three Strikes generate. How many people would get booted off the Internet even though they have never downloaded a single file?

(via PC Pro)

01/26 2010 | 04:35 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bittorrent Inc. announced today that it has begin to collaborate with the Google-funded Measurement Lab (M-Lab) to test ISP connections and home networking related issues that could impact a user's connection speed. From Bittorrent's blog:

"M-Lab is supporting important research into how our Internet is actually performing and informing the debate on how this shared resource should be managed."


utorrent mountain view

At the core of this collaboration is a tool that was integrated into uTorrent ever since its 2.0 beta launch last summer: uTorrent users are now given the option to test their connection speed upon starting the application for the first time. The client then tests a user's connection and suggests various connection settings based on this test.

However, BitTorrent isn't relying on it's own server for these speed test. Instead, it is using a service supplied by M-Lab that is also aggregating the anonymized test results to get a better sense of how fast the average DSL or cable connection is, what kind of problems users are facing as part of their home set-up and related issues. All of this data is available under the Creative Commons Zero license, which means it's essentially part of the public domain, free to use by anyone for any purpose. Bittorrent's blog post elaborates:

"Given ĶTorrentís substantial user-base, we are hopeful that this data will stimulate new research into the state of the Internet and support the public debate with unbiased measurement data."


Bittorrent plans to include related M-Lab tools in the future. One that could be particularly interesting is Glasnost - a tool developed to detect ISP interference with P2P file transfers.

01/21 2010 | 02:15 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The folks behind the cross-platform, open source Bittorrent client Transmission have just released version 1.80 of their application. The release features a few dozen bug fixes as well as 44 enhancements based on user requests, and one of the most notable new features is that Transmission now supports magnet links.

Magnet links are basically URLs for files that are distributed via P2P. Programs like Edonkey2000 used to have their own, proprietary linking scheme, and magnet links were meant to provide a more standardized scheme for linking to P2P resources. Some of the first programs to support magnet links were Gnutella clients like Limewire and Shareaza, but the idea of these types of links has become more popular with Bittorrent developers as well in recent months.

Magnet links got a big push when The Pirate Bay started to support them last November. The folks from TPB declared in a blog post that magnet links were a step towards a more decentralized Bittorrent environment that doesn't need any torrent files or trackers anymore.

Technically, that's true - a Bittorrent client can just use magnet links to get content from a DHT network without first querying a tracker, and one of the other features added to Transmission 1.80 is the support for such trackerless torrents. However, most magnet links featured on The Pirate Bay still list a Bittorrent tracker.

Still the feature will help to make using Bittorrent an even more seamless experience. Transmission users can now simply click on a magnet link instead of downloading a torrent file first to start a download.

01/21 2010 | 11:06 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Cnet claimed yesterday that Verizon has started to boot alleged P2P infringers off its network, three strikes-style. From the article:

"Months after Verizon Communications began issuing warnings to accused file sharers, the company has acknowledged that multiple offenses could result in a service interruption. 'We've cut some people off,' Verizon Online spokeswoman Bobbi Henson told CNET."

However, the company is backtracking today, and Henson is claiming that Cnet misquoted her, according to Broadband Reports:

"'That part of the CNET story is wrong,' she says. 'I did not say 'we've cut people off'; I said we reserve the right to do so.'"


So what is it? Hard to say, even though I'd think the quick retraction proves that Verizon is scared of even the idea of being perceived as a bully ISP that throttles folks or cuts them off. The company also has a history of standing up for its customers' right to a due process, going as far as fighting the RIAA in court to keep a subscriber's information confidential.

That doesn't mean that Verizon just ignores warning letters from rights holders. The company has acknowledged to send notices to customers that are alleged of trading files. These warning letters include a passage about the possibility of terminating an account in case of repeat infringement, but Henson insisted that these notices haven't led to any account terminations.

01/19 2010 | 01:31 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bittorrent client maker Vuze, formerly known as Azureus, quietly closed down its P2P porn site StudioHD late last year as part of a bigger restructuring process, according to a company spokesperson.

studiohd

Vuze had launched StudioHD with licensed clips from a number of porn companies early last year. The site was promoted within the Vuze client, and paying users of StudioHD were asked to download the Vuze software to access HD porn movies.

I wrote about the launch of StudioHD for Newteevee in May of '09, and a company spokesperson told me back then that this was the first step to launch other premium offerings. However, it looks like those plans didn't last very long. The site was apparently canned in November. The fact that no one really noticed until now is probably a good indicator for the fact that StudioHD wasn't exactly a blockbuster success story.

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01/17 2010 | 11:46 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Okay, letís admit it. We all have our own ideas of what a movie pirate looks like. Maybe we think of him as a sun-depraved teenager, spending his nights scouring torrent sites. Or we remember the guy who tried to sell us bootleg DVDs downtown the other day. Maybe we believe in a connection between movie piracy and organized crime. Or maybe we just think of the guy we get to see in the mirror every morning.

Either way, it might be time to do away with these stereotypes and think of piracy as a much more pervasive practice. Thatís one of the conclusions of a new report titled ďChanging Attitudes & Behaviours in the ĎNon-Internetí Digital World and their Implications for Intellectual PropertyĒ that was just released by the U.K.-based Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (SABIP). It focused on all the types of piracy that donít have to do with downloading and file sharing, ranging from bootleg DVDs to shared hard drives. And it turns out that this kind of ďsneakernetĒ piracy is at least as popular as P2P file sharing. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

01/09 2010 | 11:26 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
A new study released by a German consumer advocacy group is estimating that entertainment and software companies sent roughly 450,000 cease-and-desist letters to local file sharers alone in 2010, yielding some $370 million in damages. Thatís a steep jump from 2008, when the group tracked closer to 250,000 of such cases.

Itís hard to independently verify these figures, but experts agree that the number of individuals affected by P2P lawsuits is likely in the hundreds of thousands. Add to it the fact that similar campaigns are also waged in countries like the UK, and suddenly piracy is starting to look less like a threat and more like a not very kosher way to make money. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

01/07 2010 | 06:32 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Now this is interesting: A new site called The Product Bay aims to be a file sharing haven for the age of rapid manufacturing, making it possible to download product designs and then just assemble those products on your 3D printer.

the product bay

The site is currently just featuring a placeholder blog, but the first entry already sounds promising:

"RepRap and other 3D printers are the future. Thereís no question about it. With the proud tradition from The Pirate Bay, we want to take all of this to the next level. TPB will be TPB, but for real life objects."


Rapid manufacturing has come a long way in recent years, from being not much more than a visionary concept to the point where 3D printers are not only available, but actually almost ready for desktop use. Enthusiast sites like Thingverse.com have started to swap designs under Creative Commons licenses, and many articles have been written about a future in which communities can design and produce their own products.

Of course, there may also be a different future ahead - a future in which people just download leaked or reverse engineered product designs to produce their own copy of that nice designer clock that's selling in stores for hundreds of dollars. That's the future that The Product Bay seems to be preparing for:

"We want you to download those new jeans. We want you to share those new shoes. Itís possible, letís make it happen."

It's no accident that The Product Bay is aligning itself with The Pirate Bay. The site was apparently registered by Pirate Bay-co-founder Peter Sunde aka brokep, who proclaimed on Twitter this week:

"Online is SO 2009. Offline is 2010. That's why I just registered "TheProductBay.org". Download physical objects, it's the future!"

01/07 2010 | 11:09 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Are you in Washington D.C. next Monday? Then you might want to stop by Google's first 2010 D.C. talk titled "ACTA: the treaty that could reshape the internet." As you might have guessed by the title, it's all about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. From the company's public policy blog:

"A number of consumer advocates and technology companies, including Google, have raised serious concerns about ACTA's potential reach and the impact it could have on Internet users' rights and innovation."

Google hasn't said who is going to be on the panel, but the talk will apparently be moderated by Washington Post Consumer Technology Columnist Rob Pegoraro. Check out Google's blog for all the details, or RSVP here.

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