felix's blog

End of the piratebay tracker, but not of piratebay

Ars Technica writes:

The Pirate Bay announced today that it was killing its popular BitTorrent tracker, relying instead on the truly decentralized DHT protocol to handle file location and downloading. For TPB, it's all about removing centralized points of control.

See also Torrentfreak's take on the story and it's explanation of the decentralized technology (DHT, magnet links) replacing the central tracker.

Content recognition engine

There is very little information about the back-end of Youtube (provided by a company called audible magic), which watermarks content to screen for copyright violation. But there's an interesting snippet by Viacom's general counsel.

Fricklas points to the recent MTV music awards, where Kanye West rushed the stage, grabbed the mic, and delivered his Internet-meme-producing-line, "I'mma let you finish, but…" Viacom quickly uploaded the evening's footage into the content recognition engines of sites like YouTube, which can then block exact uploads of the same footage or allow rightsholders to monetize it with ads. Viacom used the tool to block copies of the clip, but not without offering a solution of its own: the clip was hosted on Viacom websites and was embeddable and linkable.

It also points to a more flexible strategie: Block exact copies, earn money from other people's mash-ups (who themselves don't earn money).

Source: Ars Technica,Viacom's top lawyer: suing P2P users "felt like terrorism" November 16, 2009

Funding the first copy

If we want to enable free access to knowledge goods, we need to find ways to finance the first copy. The industrial business model has been to regard the costs of the first copy as up-front investment that is later recouped by controlling access to subsequent copies. This model is clearly broken, if everyone can make copies, or if the resulting price of the copies is so high, that people who need them, cannot afford it. As is the case with many drugs, particularly, but not only, in the developing world. In the case of the latter, the big idea is to move away from the patent system (which grants exclusivity as an incentive to invest in research) to a system of prices. As James Love and Tim Hubbard write in an extensive research paper:

Reforming the way we pay for R&D on new medicines involves a simple but powerful idea. Rather than give drug developers the exclusive rights to sell products, the government would award innovators money: large monetary “prizes” tied to the actual impact of the invention on improvements in health care outcomes that successful products actually deliver.

Source: James Love and Tim Hubbard. "The Big Idea: Prizes to Stimulate R&D for New Medicines." Chicago-Kent Law Review, Volume 82, Number 3 (2007)

U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets

Source: Wired.com

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.
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The intelligence community has been interested in social media for years. In-Q-Tel has sunk money into companies like Attensity, which recently announced its own web 2.0-monitoring service. The agencies have their own, password-protected blogs and wikis — even a MySpace for spooks. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence maintains an Open Source Center, which combs publicly available information, including web 2.0 sites. Doug Naquin, the Center’s Director, told an audience of intelligence professionals in October 2007 that “we’re looking now at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence…. We have groups looking at what they call ‘citizens media’: people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them on the internet. Then there’s social media, phenomena like MySpace and blogs.”

p2p distribution plattform for documentaries

From Torrentfreak.com

In an attempt to connect filmmakers with the distribution power of the file-sharing community, Steal This Film director Jamie King has launched VODO. The project includes partners well known to the file-sharing community like Mininova, The Pirate Bay, isoHunt, Miro, Vuze and Frostwire, who have pledged to promote the works of VODO films.

File Sharing and Copyright

Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf (Harvard Business School) have a paper out in which they examine whether file sharing (and thus a weaker copyright) does negatively impact on incentives to create, release and market cultural works. Their answer is no (to the extent that data is available). Both for empirical reasons (considerably more music, books, and films have been released in 2007 and in 2000) and theoretical reasons (substitutes vs complements; artistic motivations vs financial motivations).

Distributed Financing for Terrorism

The NYT has an article that the Taliban's financial resources have been diversifying. Most interestingly, their number one source of money is no longer drug-related (though that is still important) but stems from donations.

The C.I.A. recently estimated in a classified report that Taliban leaders and their associates had received $106 million in the past year from donors outside Afghanistan (...). Private citizens from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and some Persian Gulf nations are the largest individual contributors (...) there is no evidence so far that the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or other Persian Gulf states are providing direct aid to the Afghan insurgency.

Back in the days when states were the main actors in international politics and security matters, it was impossible to run a guerrilla war without some outside state backing it. The Soviets would never haven been defeated in Afghanistan without the CIA financing and equipping the mujahedeen. This seems no longer to the case. While this is not directly related to the ability to pool small resources for major projects characteristic of many internet-based organizations, it seems in line with a general trend that it becomes more easy to aggregate the resource of large, loosely organized networks.

OpenNet Initiative

OpenNet Initiative: Covering the state of Censorship and Filtering online

From an interview with Rafal Rohozinski, a founder and principal investigator of the Information Warfare Monitor and the OpenNet Initiative.

One of the more interesting things we've observed in recent years has been the emergence of "third-generation controls". This form of content control stops short of censorship, but rather sees the state (and pro-state groups) engage in active information warfare against their opponents. They use denial of service attacks, and other techniques in order to silence opposition. This approach is interesting, as it allows the state to claim that it is not censoring groups, but the effect is the same. Of course, there is no legal recourse to challenge these practices.

Will Books Be Napsterized?

NYT has an article on the fears of the book industry about e-book piracy. There are numerous parallels to the music industry, including that the business model is under pressure even without piracy. The music industry remains dismal.

Since music sales peaked in 1999, the value of the industry’s inflation-adjusted sales in the United States, even including sales from Apple’s highly successful iTunes Music Store, has dropped by more than half, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

GoalBit: P2P Streaming Goes Open Source

Janko Roettgers writes about a release of an open source bittorrent streaming apps:

GoalBit uses a hybrid approach that combines the best of the BitTorrent world, with features from the likes of P2P networks such as Gnutella and KaZaA’s FastTrack network. Its network features a tracker similar to the one used by BitTorrent clients, but it also makes use of so-called super-peers. These are computers with fat pipes that help to distribute the initial signal until it trickles down to users with ordinary DSL connections and limited upload speeds. Super-peers can be run either by the broadcasters themselves, or self-selected based on the connectivity of the individual end user. The idea of this multilayer approach is to prevent too many direct connections to the broadcaster while at the same time making the system scalable.

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