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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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June 9, 2008 8:00 AM

How P2P Piracy Enforcement is Like Iraq

In reading about the ongoing battle over P2P piracy, I can't help but draw analogies between this devolving situation and Iraq.

First off, both are now littered with hired guns. Iraq has Blackwater, Hollywood has MediaDefender, "the leading provider of anti-piracy solutions in the emerging Internet-Piracy-Prevention industry," according to their site.

Instead of guns, MediaDefender maintains 2000 servers and a 9Gbps connection that they use to seed fake files into illegal torrent tracking sites. These trackers are what help P2P users find illegally distributed content. It's MediaDefender's intent to both frustrate users by introducing fake files as well as to bring down the tracking sites by overwhelming them with denial of service attacks.

But like in Iraq, sometimes innocent bystanders are getting caught in the crossfire of mercenaries, as happened over Memorial Day weekend when MediaDefender's system brought down the website, RSS server, and internal corporate email of Revision3, a legitimate content producer that legally distributes their content via BitTorrent.

Read the article linked to above as the situation was a bit more complicated than this, but the gist is that these overzealous mercenaries attacked a site simply because of the company it kept.

But these Iraq analogies just got deeper in a disturbing way. Researchers at the University of Washington have recently shown that the efforts by content owners to identify pirates may be fundamentally flawed as any user can be framed for copyright infringement today even if they didn't do anything. Even without being explicitly framed or even having ever used P2P software, users can attract attention from these systems. And to top it all off, it's not just users that have to be wary, even things like networked printers have been shown to trigger a response from the systems searching for pirates.

Here too the analogy to Iraq stands, where our armed forces are having trouble separating the terrorists from the average law-abiding citizens.

So in Iraq we have an overwhelmed system of enforcement (the military) that's had to rely on bringing in mercenaries but which can't properly identify the real targets and in turn is resulting in innocent bystanders getting caught up in the crossfire.

Drawing this analogy even further, you've got a prevailing sense amongst those in power (the government and content owners) that regardless of whether or not these policies are misguided, if they were to be abandoned now that withdrawing the troops would cause utter chaos to ensue.

And while the analogy breaks down somewhat when discussing solutions, the spirit seems to be the same, namely that we need to find a way where we don't turn everyone into criminals and where law-abiding citizens can get what they need legally.

My apologies to anyone with family in Iraq or the military if this analogy seems flippant as obviously the issues being dealt with over there are matters of life-and-death as opposed to an industry geared towards creating fantasy worlds to help people escape from the horrors of these real-world situations.

But the analogy still stands, and with both I feel the same sense that there's got to be a better way than staying the course. That we need to find a way to step beyond this status quo and start finding real solutions that not only protect the rights of both consumers and content owners but that are also sustainable over time.

Otherwise I worry that the efforts to fight the threat of piracy will continue to mirror that of our attempts to defeat terrorism, leaving us stuck in quagmires and not focused on directing all our energy towards making the world a better place for everyone.

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Comments (2)

TGIM my friend... keep up the GREAT work... even your WAR stories are on point!

Posted by Abigail on June 9, 2008 8:53 AM

Another way that the campaign to use P2P traffic to justify various "network managment" policies is like Iraq is that it is beginning to look like the "intelligence" that the war is based on is flawed or misused in both cases.

P2P traffic is not clearly the culprit in network congestion as those who would throttle that traffic or use it as an excuse to cap bandwidth have claimed.

If the goal is a peaceful world, free of Al Queda terror, then the invasion of Iraq has been a misdirected failure. And it has certainly been an expensive venture. But it has never been clear that that was the goal.

Similarly, it doesn't seem likely that the war against P2P will actually do much to end filesharing. And if the campaign against P2P actually functions to justify deep packet inspection which in turn is used to develop an array of ways for network owners to wall off their gardens and end the threat of bitstream commodification it will be very expensive as well.

Om Malik has been on these issues
On video, not p2p as the reason for usage jumps:
On video as the source of incumbent desires to cap bandwidth:

(We're listening in Lafayette! Keep it up.)

Posted by John on June 10, 2008 11:59 PM

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