BitTorrent-ers Beware

The title to Eriq Gardner’s article states its content efficiently:  New Litigation Campaign Quietly Downloads Tens of Thousands of Movie Downloaders.  The U.S. Copyright Group–“a company owned by intellectual property lawyers that has one singular mission and focus: to stop movie copyright infringement and make illegal downloaders pay damages for the content they have stolen”–, using “a new proprietary technology by German-based Guardaley IT that allows for real-time monitoring of movie downloads on torrents,” has filed five lawsuits against a total of 20,000 [20,ooo !!!] individuals in federal court in Washington, D.C.   The Group is planning to file another suit targeting 30,000 individual downloaders.  Gardner’s article reports that some of the suits have settled, but the U.S. Copyright Group does not appear to be aiming for the $3-$5k settlements typical to RIAA file-sharing lawsuits.  Said the Group’s Jeffrey Weaver “”We’re creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel.”

F.C.C. Rules Against Comcast

Last year Comcast slowed BitTorrent traffic on its network because, it said, BitTorrent file transfers consumed inordinate bandwidth.  Advocacy groups Free Press and Public Knowledge complained about the practice to the F.C.C., presenting one of the first legal challenges to violation of the principals of net neutrality, the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated the same.  Net neutrality is a core value embodied in the original architecture of the Internet, and its preservation is considered by many to be essential to maintaining the Internet’s vitality.  On Friday the F.C.C. ruled 3-2 against Comcast and ordered it to cease blocking BitTorrent traffic by the end of the year.  F.C.C. Commissioner Kevin Martin said after the ruling ““We are preserving the open character of the Internet. . . We are saying that network operators can’t block people from getting access to any content and any applications.”  Saul Hansell reported in the New York Times the dissent, among other things, argued “that Comcast’s systems were a legitimate method of managing the capacity of the network and not an attempt to disadvantage rivals.”  Comcast is expected to appeal the ruling, which may spur Congress to enact legislation protecting net neutrality.  Hansell reports that “[c]uriously, representatives from other telecommunications companies praised the decision, even though they objected to the commission meddling in how they manage their networks. They said they would prefer such rulings to legislation from Congress . . .” because legislation would likely provide the telecoms with little wriggle room.  The F.C.C. decision, on the other hand, deals only with Comcast’s specific BitTorrent blocking and does not establish broad precedent.

The pirate mind

A student sent this post from TorrentFreak–love those web names–about BitTorrent tracker PirateBay. The post lauds PirateBay for passing 12 million users, noting that seeders now outnumber leechers, and broadcasts PirateBay’s goal to achieve 20 million users soon. The glimpse into pirate culture afforded by the comments is worth a look, if you care to understand its stubborn, undiminished appeal. It’s about free music/movies/TV shows, yes, but it is also about being part of a community. A community that will coalesce and reform around a new sharing site/protocol/service when PirateBay is hobbled.

OiNK Shut Down

Members-only music-sharing site OiNK was shut down yesterday by British and Dutch police as part of an Interpol investigation. Police arrested a 24 year old man from Middlesborough, England, raided the man’s employer and home of the man’s father, and seized OiNK’s servers in Amsterdam. OiNK, a BitTorrent tracker, “hosted hundreds and thousands of torrents with over a million peers” and was a popular source for leaked pre-release albums. It’s invitation-only membership policy gave OiNK cachet and, ostensibly, greater security from music industry attack. No more. I’m curious to know more about how Interpol built its case.

One Small Step for BitTorrent,

. . . One giant leap for the mainstream media. The headline of Steven Schwankert’s terse article on InfoWorld.com (29-Nov-06) says it all: BitTorrent makes deals with major studios. 20th Century Fox, Kadokawa Pictures USA, MTV Networks, Lionsgate Entertainment, and Starz Media have entered into licensing agreements to rent or sell movies and television shows on the BitTorrent website.

P2P = People to Prison

Five months in prison for copyright infringement. That–plus five months’ home detention, three years’ probation, and a $3,000 fine–is Grant T. Stanley’s punishment for his network-administration role in the Elite Torrents file-sharing service. Operation D-Elite, a federal law enforcement initiative, snared Stanley and two others in May 2005; Stanley pled guilty to these copyright charges last week. The Elite Torrents network (in the words of the U.S. Department of Justice Press Release announcing Operation D-Elite) “attracted more than 133,000 members and, [over] four months, allegedly facilitated the illegal distribution of more than 17,800 titles – including movies and software – which were downloaded 2.1 million times.” The Tech Report, which picked up the story last Friday, contains comments on Stanley’s sentence. (Source: The Associated Press, Peer-to-Peer Charges Net Prison Term, Excite News, The Washington Post, 27-Oct-06)