I touched on this subject during the test recordings for the TechBytes Audiocast. It wasn’t appropriate to go into further detail in that show due to time constraints and much information to put forward For those of you who would like to hear the “pilot” which was merely meant to check the tech that we are using, can visit here. I will hopefully be exploring this topic further on TechBytes in the future.
This week saw one of the “traditional” file sharing mediums being taken offline by a court case brought about by the RIAA. There has been many outspoken commenters on this subjects and it seems opinion is split into two distinct camps. The first group who worry about the precedent this successful court case will have set for the future and the implications for other P2P delivery systems. The other camp which thinks Limewire was awful and is no loss to the file sharing community at all.
Limewire is probably more popular with the casual downloader who has maybe had use of the Limewire client for a number a years. Its certainly a simple application to use. The problem with Limewire seemed to me that the average user was not tech savvy and so Limewire became a haven for malware and all other sorts of nastiness. Its not a p2p Client I would have ever considered using nor would I have recommended it to anyone else.
For me the loss (in respect of the “service”) is no loss. On 26th October 2010 when Judge Wood served an injunction on Limewire, I saw no loss (from a contributory point of view) but what was worrying were the implications it could have for other p2p services in the future.
Whatever your views on copyright infringement, the technology behind it is not designed to infringe anything. As a user in a BT swarm for example, the sensible position is to give responsibility of any alleged infringement to the users engaging in it not a provider of a tracker or service where users frequent. If we look at this in the real world, it would be like holding a bus driver responsible for a robbery on his vehicle, a landlord responsible for their tenants behavior whilst renting his/her property. The idea that Limewire can be held responsible is to me as inconceivable as any of the above examples I have given.
The fact that Limewire IS now appearing to be held responsible for the actions of its users, with the case continuing in January 2011 where it will be argued regarding the amount of “damages” Limewire is liable for it a worrying result sending a message to would be innovators of new similar technologies that they could be held to account (and for rather large fines) and if I had developed a revolutionary new file sharing service that would benefit everyone, I don’t think that I would be too keen to release it after looking at the Limewire case.
It could be argued that this is the whole point of the RIAA actions against Limewire and its sole purpose is to prevent services/trackers from ever giving users the forum to share files. Maybe the RIAA sees the victory over Limewire not so much of a financial one for those it represents but for the message it sends to future providers of p2p services?
Moving on though it seems that the ongoing battle by Operation Payback users against those who they see as “the enemy” now has the RIAA website down. Using the now famous LOIC, a simple piece of java code (in its Linux implementation) which enables the co-ordination of a ddos attack by thousands of users on a selected target. Simple, effective and shows just how much support that this campaign has behind it.
With the RIAA site currently down (maybe as a result of a premature attack by the LOIC or by admins bringing the site down themselves) and Limewire Homepage displaying a warning notice (in light of the injuction) it looks like no score draw for both sides.
I would not want to either condone or condemn the actions of those involved in Operation Payback however I would like people engaging in this act to keep in mind the following legislation (UK)
From the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (Source: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/18/section/3)
Unauthorised acts with intent to impair, or with recklessness as to impairing, operation of computer, etc.
(1)A person is guilty of an offence if—
(a)he does any unauthorised act in relation to a computer;
(b)at the time when he does the act he knows that it is unauthorised; and
(c)either subsection (2) or subsection (3) below applies.
(2)This subsection applies if the person intends by doing the act—
(a)to impair the operation of any computer;
(b)to prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in any computer;
(c)to impair the operation of any such program or the reliability of any such data; or
(d)to enable any of the things mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) above to be done.
(3)This subsection applies if the person is reckless as to whether the act will do any of the things mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (2) above.
(4)The intention referred to in subsection (2) above, or the recklessness referred to in subsection (3) above, need not relate to—
(a)any particular computer;
(b)any particular program or data; or
(c)a program or data of any particular kind.
(5)In this section—
(a)a reference to doing an act includes a reference to causing an act to be done;
(b)“act” includes a series of acts;
(c)a reference to impairing, preventing or hindering something includes a reference to doing so temporarily.
And since you can’t hide behind a proxy when executing a ddos attack, I wonder how difficult it would be (if a complaint were made) to track the UK IP’s engaging in this campaign and hold them to accountable under criminal law?
One thing you can say, the failed battle on copyright infringement has brought together a massive community of like-minded people and for every “success” against the alleged copyright infringer’s two or three more alternatives appear.
Whats the future? I think Usenet will grow to be seen as a desirable location for many and with NZB clients as simple as a BT client, I think the barriers that Usenet once presented to the “casual user” are gone. A good thing? Well I don’t believe so. I think if bodies like the RIAA have merely increased the publicity of p2p & copyright infringement and almost made it “fashionable” to engage in it and also forced the problem effectively further underground. I truly believe that the future of file sharing will be with old techs that can’t be harvested with the ease we have seen with BT et al.
Lets look at the success against alleged copyright infringement with p2p. We now have more BT trackers than when the technology was first introduced, we have Usenet and XDCC seeing a steady stream of material which unlike BT cannot be linked to sharing in the same way. We have ACS:Law apparently reeling from the leak of its emails (with their site which was previously a WIP now completely gone), we have Gallant and Macmillan sitting on a judgement due sometime next year in respect of disclosure of Internet accounts re: Ministry of Sound material and we’ve seen TBI Solicitors enter the game and then exit just as quickly.
All in all not a success, a hideous waste of money where it seems the only people making a killing are the solicitors employed to engage in this futile work – laughing, in my opinion, all the way to the bank as they string out this fiasco as long as they can.
Maybe though the most important point here is that whilst it may transpire that Op Payback can take the credit for bringing down the RIAA site, its Limewire with potentially a massive fine on their hands and apart from a slight loss of face, what exactly has the RIAA lost in all this? One could even argue that the supporters of the RIAA will be pleased that their actions have evoked such a strong response and as I’ve said here in respect of unrelated topics, if you are attacked aggressively over your actions/views – you might just be doing something right.
After the recent ruling against Limewire, the RIAA is reported as saying:
In January, the court will conduct a trial to determine the appropriate level of damages necessary to compensate the record companies for the billions and billions of illegal downloads that occurred through the Limewire system…
I’ll let both parties in this “battle” think on that one. Has either really “won”? and what really has been achieved?
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