Encrypted P2P networks?
July 19, 2004 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Do they have any encrypted peer to peer networks set up yet? The movie and music industries are now wise to Bittorrent, and a friend of mine recently got in trouble by his university for sharing copyrighted material.

I guess I'm new to this whole filesharing thing, but the movie / music industries cracking down on poor college kids bugs me for several reasons. Besides punishing their best customers, I was always under the impression that anything on the net is fair game to be downloaded. How can it be someone's fault for downloading a file that is freely available, when they have no way of knowing if it wasn't the movie company that was intentionally releasing it online free of charge. You could argue that it's common sense, but it seems like there should be some sort of tagging system so that one could tell the difference between illegal and legal files. I bet my friend wouldn't have been in trouble for sharing a trailer of the movie, yet the trailer is still copyrighted. Also, why isn't it considered hacking when the music and movie industry scans the internet traffic a PC is processing? If the internet traffic was somehow encrypted, even with weak encryption, couldn't the movie / music industries be sued for breaking the DMCA which prohibits circumventing proprietary technology if they tried to scan what files my friend was downloading. I'm really confused.
posted by banished to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
 
Check out Waste and Freenet.
posted by chunking express at 11:02 AM on July 19, 2004


Hmm... Freenet is like an encrypted version of the web, mainly for sharing information (or perhaps source code) that people want to censor. It's also very slow: you will have a lot of trouble downloading music or (I'm laughing at the thought of it) movies from Freenet.

Waste is for smaller groups, mainly -- if you already travel in a circle of p2p types, or you think you could get a decent group together (or find one to join), Waste might be for you.

The best encrypted p2p network I've seen so far is Filetopia, which is relatively obscure but basically a reasonably-sized p2p network for crypto/privacy nuts -- you might find downloads quite slow, though. You might also consider doing your filesharing on a relatively obscure network -- SoulSeek is popular but doesn't seem to be on the cease-and-desist radar yet (although it is for music only). Talking of flying under the radar, IRC remains relatively safe, and very good if you're reasonably good at figuring out how things work intuitively and don't mind waiting in a queue to get a fast download.

You might also find a decent network or client at a site like Zeropaid.

The main trouble you're going to have, if you want to go encrypted, is that encryption is expensive, in terms of both CPU and bandwidth. You'll probably find that it's quite easy to share music and keep your privacy intact, but nearly impossible to share movies.
posted by reklaw at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2004


The music and movie industry aren't scanning the Internet traffic. Your friend got in trouble because the University was monitoring its own network, and I'd be a little surprised if the fine print in the terms of your friend's computer access agreement didn't warn him that would be going on (and that trafficking in copyrighted files was not allowed.)

What the RIAA is doing is: finding individuals on P2P networks who are making copyrighted materials available (by the obvious means -- a P2P client); finding their ISP (easily done -- transactions with that user yield their IP and it's straightforward to get their ISP); then subpoenaing the ISPs for the individuals' identities (through the terms of the DMCA.)

Encrypting the network traffic itself wouldn't buy you anything -- if it otherwise resembled current systems, the IP would still be available.

See the EFF's How Not To Get Sued By The RIAA For File-Sharing.

Of course, step one is "stop distributing copyrighted materials."

The "whoops -- didn't realize it was copyrighted" might wash if that represented only a few files, especially if they were among a great number of public domain or otherwise freely distributed works.

Trying to apply it to 10G of recent music would probably work about as well as explaining to the cop that you had no idea that the DVD player you bought new in its box for $20 from the nice man selling it from the back of his van was stolen.

On preview -- WASTE looks like it's for sharing confidential materials among mutually trusted users, not for attempting to make the users unknown to each other, so it wouldn't help. (Having a small, private, closed P2P network would help, but that's true regardless of what P2P tech one's using.)

FreeNet, on the other hand, looks like it might be useful for this -- I'd have to look at it more closely.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:30 AM on July 19, 2004


Zed_Lopez: you're right that you can be caught as long as you're giving someone your IP address (ie. allowing someone to start downloading from you). Each of the networks mentioned so far is, at its core, an attempt to solve this problem.

The idea of Waste is that you only let trusted users into your private network, so anyone who downloads from you (seeing your IP) is trusted.

Filetopia solves the problem in much the same way as anonymous proxies do on the web: it routes your upload and download traffic randomly through people who have volunteered to be proxies (Filetopia calls these "bouncers").

On Freenet, everything on the network is encrypted and distributed around the network according to demand, whether you actually asked for it or not. This is supposed to give you plausible deniability. It also means that going on Freenet at all will probably cause your computer to download all sorts of illegal things (not least of which is child porn!), because you're just another node on the network, distributing what the other clients. But it'll all be encrypted, so no-one should be able to find out what your cache contains anyway.

Of course, this ignores the evil leecher solution: they only go after uploaders, so turning off uploading in a normal p2p client (like Kazaa, for example) will stop you from getting nasty letters. It will also reduce the utility of the network, of course, but that's not a big issue on networks as massive as Kazaa.
posted by reklaw at 11:42 AM on July 19, 2004


1) In order to share the movies, they first must be ripped from a DVD, which involves breaking proprietary encryption and is therefore illegal, as you said.

2) Even though, as you say, these files are "freely available," that doesn't make it legal to download them. There are lots of knives "freely available" to kill people with. Bad analogy.

3) Ignorance is not considered a valid defence in any courtroom in America. Not knowing that a particular action is illegal does not exonerate you. This becomes something of a gray area around mental incompetance and insanity defences, but if your "friend" is in college I doubt those apply, anyway.

4) By downloading the files, you are violating the copyrights of the owner of that piece of property. As discussed elsewhere ad nauseum.

5) By downloading the files, you are benefitting from the hard work of the company that made the movie without duly compensating them. This is illegal and is called something like "unjust enrichment" or even "theft of services" depending on where you live.

6) Had your friend merely shared the trailer, he would still have been breaking the law, though as you mention it is doubtful that anyone would have cared. Ditto for TV ads.

7) IANAFBI, but I don't think its illegal to monitor internet traffic, since it is farily public. Much like eavesdropping on someone's conversation in the park: if you transmit in such an open forum, you can't fault someone for listening in. Also, most of the time they simply start up KaZaA and do a search for one of their movies, just like you do. I agree that it does come very close to vigilanteism, but since they are filing civil charges and only threatening criminal ones, they are permitted to conduct their own investigations.

In an interesting sidenote, I heard someone was countersuing the RIAA under the RICO statutes, saying that demanding monetary compensation in civil actions by threatening criminal charges and jail time is tantamount to extortion. While I have no doubt that this case will be dismissed, it made me laugh.

8) A tagging system for legal vs. illegal files would be helpful but is also a completely insane idea. Using it makes one immediately cognisant of and instantly complicity in the impropriety. Your "I'm just an idiot college kid" defense goes sailing out the window on fairy wings. It would be like having "Stolen" labels on half the vehicles in a used car lot. You're still breaking the law, but now you're throwing it in peoples' faces.

9) Eventually this will come before the supreme court, and eventually they will decide against the RIAA. In an earlier judgement they ruled that taping a TV program and sharing it with your friends is legal and doesn't violate the copyright of the producer nor the broadcaster. So the precedent is there. This does, of course, change with first-run movies and stuff, but anything that's publicly available for free on TV or the radio must be legal to store and trade, if that decision is read in the way I read it.
posted by ChasFile at 11:53 AM on July 19, 2004


I've tried both WASTE and clevercactus-- why are the transfer speeds so slow? I have a (theoretical) 3mb download. While I realize my transfer speed is actually capped by the other party's upload speed, I've seen connections over 200k/s on open p2p networks on a 1:1 basis (i.e., not a swarm). Yet the encrypted ones always seem to peak around 15k/s when connecting to someone with an indentical connection. Is that just the nature of the encryption overhead? It seems way too much to be just that.
posted by yerfatma at 12:11 PM on July 19, 2004


I got okay transfer rates with clevercactus. the main problems I had with it were:

It's a bit of a resource hog.

Hardly anyone I know is using it, so after I had gotten everything I wanted from a few people it ceased being useful.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:48 PM on July 19, 2004


Zed_Lopez - "The music and movie industry aren't scanning the Internet traffic. Your friend got in trouble because the University was monitoring its own network"

Actually, you're incorrect, it was Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. who sent an e-mail to the school saying they did their scanning and found out that copyrighted files were being shared, and then the school sent a letter to my friend.

ChasFile - "1) In order to share the movies, they first must be ripped from a DVD, which involves breaking proprietary encryption and is therefore illegal, as you said."

The file in question was a copy of a movie recorded with a personal video camera. Why should you be allowed to tape a TV program and share it, but not be able to videotape a movie and share it? You could use the, "well there are advertisements in television ads" argument, but with all the product placement crap in movies today, I don't see much of a difference.
posted by banished at 1:02 PM on July 19, 2004


KDX is an encrypted BBS style client/server app. It has all the trappings of old school BBS's. Connect to tracker like services to find servers that might have the files you're looking for. Some server operators enforce an U/D ratio, some don't. I think it's a pay application, but considering the types of people this technology services I'm sure there's a way around it.
posted by mnology at 1:23 PM on July 19, 2004


1) In order to share the movies, they first must be ripped from a DVD, which involves breaking proprietary encryption and is therefore illegal, as you said.

I think this is only the case in the land of the free. Is there any other country where the actual ripping of media you own is illegal?
posted by Mitheral at 1:40 PM on July 19, 2004


In order to share the movies, they first must be ripped from a DVD, which involves breaking proprietary encryption and is therefore illegal, as you said.

Not true. You can make a perfect duplicate of your DVD, encryption codes and all, without breaking any DMCA laws. The problem is that if you want to play that on your computer that doesn't have a player program that's paying the DVD consortium, well, you have to break the encryption somehow. But merely copying a DVD is not illegal because it does not require any decryption.

Even though, as you say, these files are "freely available," that doesn't make it legal to download them.

Actually, the legal problems you'll run into isn't in downloading material. There's nothing wrong with downloading material off the internet, because there is an assumption that the person offering it has distribution rights. That's the problem. If you're offering a movie/song for download, you become a distributor, but without appropriate rights to do so, you become a criminal. Kinda like how buying cigarettes if you're under 18 isn't against the law, but selling them to a minor is.

By downloading the files, you are violating the copyrights of the owner of that piece of property. As discussed elsewhere ad nauseum.

The rights usually don't belong to the original author, anyway, so you're not going to find a lot of sympathy here.

you are benefitting from the hard work of the company that made the movie without duly compensating them. This is illegal and is called something like "unjust enrichment" or even "theft of services" depending on where you live.

When I walk past a guy on the street playing a trumpet, but don't put money in his hat, I'm benefitting from his hard work, yet not compensating him. Nobody cares about that poor schlub. If you put something into the public domain, don't expect compensation. For instance, cable satellite broadcasting companies throw signals across the world, but get annoyed when you don't buy "their" descrambler and service plan. Too bad, so sad.

demanding monetary compensation in civil actions by threatening criminal charges and jail time is tantamount to extortion

When the RIAA sends a pack of lawyers to your house that threaten to litigate you out of existance unless you "pay up" a couple grand, what would you call it? See, you're assuming there is legal ground for the suit, but the justice system assumes that the accused is innocent. So it becomes a waiting game... and he with the most money wins.

Just playing devil's advocate. I agree that most file-trading is, in fact, illegal, but then, I also believe the entire system of distribution is changing as technology catches up to the law, and those "in charge" are going to have to change or die. In any system of justice, if enough people are willing to ignore or break a law, that law becomes obsolete by the sheer weight of public interest.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:56 PM on July 19, 2004


another encrypted filesharing program i've heard things about is mute

and you always have the ever-wonderful usenet
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 2:25 PM on July 19, 2004


Trying to apply it to 10G of recent music would probably work about as well as explaining to the cop that you had no idea that the DVD player you bought new in its box for $20 from the nice man selling it from the back of his van was stolen.

Sam's Club is selling DVD players this month for about $35.
posted by baylink at 2:41 PM on July 19, 2004


The file in question was a copy of a movie recorded with a personal video camera. Why should you be allowed to tape a TV program and share it, but not be able to videotape a movie and share it?

Um, because that's called bootlegging and is expressly forbidden by the movie theater you taped it at.

You can make a perfect duplicate of your DVD, encryption codes and all, without breaking any DMCA laws.

True enough.

Actually, the legal problems you'll run into isn't in downloading material. There's nothing wrong with downloading material off the internet, because there is an assumption that the person offering it has distribution rights.

I'm not sure about this. I think it is simply easier to track down and prosecute those who share. Watching a movie you dowloaded still infringes on the copyright owner's rights, but its difficult to a) catch you watching it and b) prove later in a court of law that you did watch it. If one person involved in the transaction is doing something illegal, it seems to me that the other person is, as well.

I have never heard of it being legal to buy cigarettes if you are under 18. I think once I heard that in Lousiana when the drinking age was raised to 21 they didn't change the purchase laws, so although posession and consumption were illegal, purchasing alchohol was not. They closed that loophole about 5 years ago, and AFAIK none others regarding minors and dangerous products exist.

The rights usually don't belong to the original author, anyway, so you're not going to find a lot of sympathy here.

The studio that put up the money to make the film owns the rights, as they should. The carpenter who built my house doesn't own it either, but is that wrong?

When I walk past a guy on the street playing a trumpet, but don't put money in his hat, I'm benefitting from his hard work, yet not compensating him.

? and...? First of all, he is offering his services for free, and anything that goes in his hat is a donation more than it is a fee. Second, as I mentioned in my first comment, anything willfully transmitted in such a public medium as a city park is pretty much public domain.

Nobody cares about that poor schlub.

I care.

When the RIAA sends a pack of lawyers to your house that threaten to litigate you out of existance unless you "pay up" a couple grand, what would you call it?

While I would certainly call it "aggressive," or "predatory," or possibly even "unethical," but I hesitate to call it "illegal." Like any good joke, there is a kernel of truth to this, but I don't think it qualifies as extortion and definitely don't think RICO applies here.

See, you're assuming there is legal ground for the suit

No, I'm not. In my first post I said I thought it would be dismissed.

In any system of justice, if enough people are willing to ignore or break a law, that law becomes obsolete by the sheer weight of public interest.

This is definitely true in the case of criminal law. But we're talking corporate, copyright, and IP law here, which is much different. Common usage and conventional wisdom hardly apply. Will people continue to illegally share songs? yup. Will it remain illegal? I think so.

Sam's Club is selling DVD players this month for about $35.

They also come free with many magazine sbscriptions.
posted by ChasFile at 3:03 PM on July 19, 2004


One more for Usenet, and another quick question:

I'm trying to get in this BitTorrent thing, but I keep getting really crappy downloads. The FarCry demo (200mb) took 3 hours on my cable connection! Am I spoiled by my 300KB/s Usenet connection or is this normal?
posted by geoff. at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2004


BitTorrent forces you to share to get good download speeds. If you're allowing a fair amount of transfer bandwidth, you might be looking at a firewall issue. You need to open some ports in the high 6000s.
posted by yerfatma at 4:18 PM on July 19, 2004


Actually, you're incorrect, it was Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. who sent an e-mail to the school saying they did their scanning and found out that copyrighted files were being shared, and then the school sent a letter to my friend.

They weren't doing it by any sort of hacking to monitor the traffic itself; they were doing it through the method I described. The university is your friend's ISP.

I stand corrected on the University's level of activity; I was speculating there.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:47 PM on July 19, 2004


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