MoBlock/PG – A cause for concern?

Do PG/MoBlock offer any peace of mind?  Are they effective?

Do PG/MoBlock offer any peace of mind? Are they effective?

Before I begin what I hope will be an interesting article (for some), the purposes of this are two fold (1) to cover briefly two packages which you may or may not have heard of and (2) to try to comment (as best I can) on the position in regards to UK law. 

Due to the world we live in today, I feel I have to stress that the text which follows is my opinion.  It is not to be taken as fact or stated law (unless links are given, and then those links have the responsibility of claiming themselves as such or as me stating opinion) The best form of personal legal advice is always to acquire your own, the internet (and a personal blog) cannot be expected to act as a definitive guide to the nuances and “finer points” of individual cases.

Moving on, I feel its also important to clarify the Open Bytes position on piracy, lest I have the MS faithful throwing libelous accusations against myself or the site.

The Openbytes position on piracy is against it in any form.   Ive often referred to the pirate as a train user who makes a journey without paying for a ticket, everyone else has to pay a higher price to allow for those who dont want to pay (or indeed dont feel they should)  As Ive said on previous articles, I dont really want to get into a debate of the rights or wrongs of piracy.

I am quite sure that this article will win me no supporters, it sadly seems that its “fashionable” to infringe someones copyright and if there are any FOSS users who believe piracy is OK then Id ask you to consider how you would feel if a large proprietary firm took software released under the GPL, changed its asthetics and then sold it for billions.  You cant have it both ways IMO.  If you truly believe in the ethos of FOSS then you cant support/encourage/engage in piracy (IMO).

I think many of the readers here will draw a blank when the package MoBlock is mentioned.    Moblock is the Linux version of Peer Guardian for Windows.

So whats Peer Guardian?  I hear some say.  A package that blocks defined IP addresses (or range of address) Its a popular package amongst our BT protocol sharers who believe in some way that this package helps them do as they please.  The belief of its users that it is effective in blocking out the RIAA, BPI or whatever is somewhat amazing.  Heres my opinion why Moblock/Peer Guardian really are not as effective as you may believe.

Whilst its true MoBlock/Peer Guardian will block transfers between you and an IP address it believes belong to the IP harvesters, I have a couple of questions that you may want to consider, but before you do and for those that dont know, I would like to explain that Moblock/PG (Peer Guardian) are used predominatley by users of P2P networks who want to share files but dont want to be “caught” doing so. (IMO)  Of course anyone who has more than a passing interest in computers will (i hope) agree that the entire theory is completely flawed, but incase youre still undecided, consider the following:

a/ How do you know that the IP addresses Moblock is blocking are really accurate?

b/ Whats from stopping a new IP address being used which isnt on the blocklist.

c/ Who exactly is giving this “blocklist info”?

So lets look at this in more detail:

a/ How do you know that the IP addresses Moblock is blocking are really accurate?

Because the creators and users tell you so.  Thats really it.  There is no real way for the average user to tell if a blocked IP is blocked because it is legitimately belonging to the RIAA (or similar) or infact its been submitted by a user who wants to block another out of spite.

b/ Whats from stopping a new IP address being used which isnt on the blocklist.

Nothing at all and its really quite simple, if someone is intending to harvest IP’s and collect data on users filesharing then they could easily check to see if they are on the list.  If they are its not hard to get around is it?

c/ Who exactly is giving this “blocklist info”?

Who knows? and for what purpose?  Users (IMO) are relying on blind faith that the submissions to the blocklist are both honest and accurate

Even if you are sucessful in blocking a company looking to harvesting your IP for file sharing, that only negates for possibility of a file transfer between you and them, they are still privy to the same information on a torrent you are, i.e whos a seeder/peer how fast you are u./l and d/l.

So really what good is Peer Guardian or MoBlock?  Ill let you decide.

UK Law & Filesharing

When using a BT tracker (or similar P2P) you become a distributor or sharer which means that whilst you are downloading you are also sharing with others.  This leaves you open to legal recourse.   For every 1k of data you share it can be argued in court that you are responsible for a loss of revenue.  There is provision within criminal law for this behaviour and most noteably your average pirate DVD seller will be affected by this, criminal law will cover the selling and any exploitation issues that are associated.   IMO the more important issue for the average user is within civil law.

In the UK, the civil court works under “balance of probabilities” unlike criminal which works under “beyond all reasonable doubt”  If you consider how evidence can be harvested, Id say that the “balance of probabilities” would not be as hard to prove as some people will have you believe.

Conversly under UK the act of simply downloading a file for personal viewing (from the newsgroups or IRC for example) has no provision in UK criminal law (providing there is no prohibited material banned already by UK legislation).  Of course a company in theory could take you to the small claims court in order to gain from you the lost revenue in you downloading the product, but Id suggest that these cases would be invariably difficult to prove and more importantly not worth the time of the company concerned.  That though does not make is acceptable and the person who serves files on IRC or posts copyrighted material to the Newsgroup places themselves in exactly the same position as the filesharer on a BT tracker.

Avoiding the RIAA and copyright issues

Simple answer, dont download/share copyrighted material.  If you feel that the prices of goods are too expensive, vote with your feet and dont buy them, but certainly dont download/share them.

This is one of the great things about FOSS.  I have no worries about computing costs because I am running FOSS packages completely.  Whilst Windows users claim that so many people use Microsoft products, I wonder how many would if they couldnt get them for free (albeit illegally)

The Pirate Bay – FUD?

Ive seen a few sites now reporting (i believe incorrectly) in regards to the Pirate Bay case.  Whilst I havent been privy to any of the court documents pertaining to the case, I can draw my own opinion from what Ive read on news sites.

1. The Piratebay were found guilty of a criminal offence and the court awarded costs on the basis of that finding.  They were not put in prison by IP holders of material that was available from the metafiles hosted by PB.

2. IMO The Piratebay would have been found guilty by a jury and sentence passed by a judge (if indeed the case was passed to their version of Crown court) or they could have been found guilty by magistrates (if indeed it went to their version of a magistrates court)  I fail to see why the judge is being held for a case of appeal, when the guilt will not have been his decision, merely the sentence.  Or have I got that wrong?  If someone can correct or elaborate on the countries legal system Id love you to post.

3. A court imposed fine, whilst being the subject of much humour within the PB community is actually to be taken very seriously, the court has very powerful means (certainly in the UK) to enforce fines, and even return to prison those who either evade or make a mockery of it.

Whilst many people appear to be taking a “great delight” in the “poke at the system” in regards to filesharing, they seem to like to make points about “real criminals” and “why target filesharers?” as if that somehow justifies their behaviour.  Law is not something we can pick and choose the bits we like and abide by them only.  For a society to work we either have all laws obeyed or none.  Otherwise whats the point?  I personally dont agree with UK speed cameras on the roads, but Im not going to break the speedlimit just because I dont agree with them.  When the next filesharer says “the police should be looking for real criminals” remind them of that fact.

Of course if the law was changed then it wouldnt be a problem, but since I dont think its likely a law will be passed allowing a filesharing free for all, then you either obey it and call yourself a law abiding citizen or you dont.

Its not just the filesharers that are guilty though!

I think the whole anti-piracy campaign has been badly handled from the beginning.  To me it seemed that the anti-piracy ads would claim piracy was funding whatever “hot potato” was being reported in the press.   In my opinion they realised this and we saw recently the “Knock off Nigel” ads, which believed a catchy tune and a little comedy would be a good way to put the anti-piracy message across.  Obviously it didnt work and instead of people thinking about piracy as an issue, if you look over at Youtube they are actually discussing which “Knock off Nigel” ad they think is better. (IMO)

Of course at the end of the day it comes down to personal choice.  I personally dont want to be the rail user who doesnt buy a ticket. So I’ll either buy the products I want or use (IMO) the better FOSS alternatives.

MoBlock/PG – A cause for concern?  IMO if you are relying it to evade those who pursue illegal downloaders, then yes.  One could argue that a savvy investigation could include a machine on a tracker that is intended to be blocked (and registering the IP of those that refuse connection) this could further add to the evidence against an alleged filesharer in that it further proves intent. (IMO)

After that more lengthy post, lets end on a lighter note, here is my favorite “Knock off Nigel” advert!

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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