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Can File Sharing Be Reigned In?
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-03-26
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Just as the RIAA is starting to get serious regarding copyright infringement activities among the employees of corporate America, a white paper by Sandvine Incorporated suggested that network administrators are ill-equipped to fight file sharing through traffic management techniques which would "soon be outmoded, and may already be obsolete."

The paper leads to two conclusions of concern for corporate IT departments and the RIAA. First, reigning in peer-to-peer activities will require a real investment in purchasing and deploying third-party software solutions, unwelcome news for network administrators facing tight budgets and overburdened with other network security issues - just ask the RIAA which just can't seem to keep their website online.

The second, more worrisome conclusion is how file sharing systems have quickly evolved to "sidestep traditional techniques to block or throttle their communications." Marc Morin, co-founder and CTO of Sandvine noted: "Managing the way this generation of P2P application impacts the network requires techniques that are nimble enough to facilitate easy re-engineering. They must evolve in lockstep with future versions of P2P clients and changes to their underlying protocols." At its worst, one could imagine a tech war akin to what's been seen with virus attacks where security experts and administrators fight a catch-up game against ever-improved intrusions.

The alternative, of course, is providing music fans with a legitimate alternative to unrestricted systems like KazAa, a challenge seized by Woodstock Systems which introduced its Personal Digital Server (PDS) media player with powerful p2p file lending ability. Woodstock claims the system sidesteps the legal quagmire that's plagued other p2p applications by restricting access to files to a smaller groups of friends, family, and co-workers; thus protected under fair use much as the VCR is. The system also turns file sharing into file lending by streaming in real time the media to the recipient's PC, thus limiting distribution to that group of permitted users.


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