One of the private companies that someone with lots of money has set up to detect and shut down those who share copyrighted files via P2P networks has gone over the line.

The website Revision3, which uses a Bittorrent to download it’s perfectly legal TV programs, has itself been the target of a “denial of service” attack by the anti piracy company Media Defenders.

For non nerds, what happened is this. (and you geeks can correct this in the comments if I get it wrong).

P2P means that my grandson Luke can send me a CD that I bought in Amazon by placing it on a P2P program, and I can download it and save postage.

But the file is large, and of course, our internet here in the Philippines is lousy, so if I try to simply download it, it takes forever and if the internet goes off, I have to start over.

So we use a p2p file to do so, and that file can download it “in the background” while I’m writing useless blog posts, and if I shut down the computer, it will remember where it left off and re start it tomorrow.

But if we do this publicly, it means that we place it on a P2P network, and anyone looking for the songs can also download them…and if I open my “music” folder to the network, they can download any of my songs in that file, without asking my permission. That type of download is in Limewire.

But sometimes if I want to download a file (such as my ubuntu ISO disk, or a non copyrighted movie or book) I can search for a torrent (big file) and download it via BitTorrent. But bandwidth costs money, so people downloading will “seed” a file, and anyone downloading it also will “Upload” the file to anyone else trying to download it.

Think of it as a lot of people trying to copy a book with a lot of xerox copiers, and those who are copying the book let others use their already copied pages to do their own copying to save time.

Now, a lot of this that goes on is illegal: just like when we used to tape off the radio and share the tape with our friends, or thirty years ago when xeroxing became cheap, so we medical students would xerox medical journal articles and give copies to our fellow students to read.

But with computers, it became widespread, if for no other reason that CD’s and movies are highly overpriced, especially for students with a limited budget.

The IPod with cheap music downloads has shown that lowering the price and letting people check out the song before paying will allow the best of both worlds, but for TV shows and movies, it’s still a problem.

So into this flea market of students sharing “used” music comes MediaDefender, who brags:

Our solutions have been adopted as practical, proven methods to thwart Internet piracy and to drive consumers to pay for digitized content distributed through authorized channels.

Umm. Probably not. Some will download from ITunes but the rest will simply stop listening or find how to tape it from the radio etc.It’s a hassle, but even I know how to do that…

By harnessing the power of user-generated content, social networking, and search technology that makes P2P so unique, we have been able to successfully reach out to the 300 Million aggregate unique monthly P2P users.

So reach out and touch someone…

PCWorld describes their technique: they put fake files on the P2P networks, and then the suckers scofflaws find that they just spent three days downloading nothing instead of downloading the latest hit film or song.Do this enough, presumably it will make nerds tear out their hair and walk down to Walmart and buy the disk for $15 or go to ITunes and download a song for 99cents.

Of course, some geeks noticed the problem, broke into the MediaDefender computer and posted a lot of their emails on the web last September.

These hacked email files discussed putting fake files to use the P2P user’s computers to spread more fake files, (essentially spreading the garbage around), but more worrisome is this noted by DigitalMediaWire:

The Media Defender-Defenders also posted what appear to be e-mails and recorded phone calls between MediaDefender employees and the New York Attorney General’s office, that detailed a plan to provide the Attorney General’s office with remote access to MediaDefender’s data on file-swappers. 

So while the press is busy hyperventilating about finding terrorist stuff on the Internet, you can sleep safe at night knowing that  you kid will be under surveillience by the NYAG office for downloading BlackEyedPeas’ latest album.

All of this is sort of old news for geeks, but it hasn’t been covered much by the MSM, probably because they are too busy covering the latest buzz from Hollywood or Obama’s fire and brimstone pastors.

But there is a new twist in the MediaDefender story, the story which I mentioned at the start of the article:MediaDefender shut down Revision3 website.

JimLouderback has a technical explanation at their website. Again, let me try to put what happened into plain non geek English.

Revision3 was downloading using BitTorrent.  MediaDefender was placing fake files into the mix. Revision3 found the fake files, and removed them. Then Revision3 found itself attacked with lots of incoming files, essentially shutting down their site. But anyone with any expertise can find out where these attacks are coming from. Duh. And guess what? They were coming from Media Defender.

According to Revision3’s  website, the initial placing of fake files is a grey area under the law, but flooding a site to shut it down is plainly illegal.

Louderback says the FBI is looking into the matter.

In the meanwhile, a lot of this makes me worry about privacy laws.

Who needs to worry about the Patriot Act allowing Homeland security to search your computer without a search warrant when these private companies are doing it without anyone bothering to protest?

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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