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Can RIAA Counter P2P Guerilla Warfare?
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-07-14
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The RIAA/file sharing war illustrates a history-long lesson: any measure can be countered with limited resources and lot's of ingenuity. I remember hearing how Vietnam War fighter planes had to fly extremely low to the ground for tactical strikes and avoidance of anti-aircraft missiles. Aided by in-board radar hooked into the navigational controls, the system would override the pilot's controls to avoid sudden obstacles in the uneven terrain. A technological wonder that predates the telecommanded Predators and future autonomous fighters.

The North Vietnamese countered with a simple (though extra large) fans over which aluminum shards were thrown. To the plane's in-board radar system, the floating aluminum cloud represented a physical obstacle to be avoided, often sending it in a peak, exposing it's underside to carefully placed guns. This simple technique became an important source of downed American planes by the end of the war.

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It's now clear that the back-patting subsequent to the RIAA's announcement that it would begin suing individual file sharers was somewhat premature as p2p developers blow their own cloud in the RIAA's plans. The threat of lawsuit is credible only to the extent that the labels are able to find, monitor and, most importantly, identify file sharers in order to gather evidence and depose the suit. It's relatively simplistic to acquire the IP's of file sharers and the courts have thus far backed the RIAA's attempts to force ISPs to reveal the identities behind those IP's.

But what if there were no one IP associated with a shared file? Enter Optisoft's latest version of its file sharing program Blubster 2.5 that "takes advantage of a streamlined means of distributing large files to dissociate file transfers from specific users," allowing it to provide users "with private, anonymous accounts." And they're not alone. There's a new generation of emerging p2p programs that are increasingly attracting the old-guard's audience by meeting a pressing need/demand by file sharers: anonymity or privacy (depending on whom you ask). In fact, today's old guard of Kazaa, iMesh,... fulfilled exactly the same function subsequent to Napster's legal defeats, prompting the reference to the Baby-Napsters. Welcome to the Baby-Kazaas!

But it's not all gloom and doom as RHAPSODY reported 11 million streamed songs and a doubling of its subscription base last month. Of course, this surge in RHAPSODY's fortunes reflects more it's integration into RealOne, the most successful subscription service, than any real change in the marketplace. RealNetworks is riding high in fact, having sealed a deal with mobile giant Vodafone to use its technology to power Vodafone live!'s audio and video services. While not an exclusive partnership, it represent a much-needed boost for the company attempting to avoid Netscape's fate of irrelevance at the hands of Microsoft.

It must have therefore given Bill Gates much pleasure to see his arch-rival facing an SCO-style patent suit* from Friskit claiming use of it's core technology and key features in RealNetworks' RealOne Player Plus and Listen.com's Rhapsody service. The press release notes that the suit "encompasses revenues from sales of both the players and subscription products, resulting in "potentially millions of dollars of damages." Could little-known Friskit actually sabotage the most successful content subscription service, thus sending a shill throughout the marketplace?

* SCO's sued IBM for infringement of its intellectual property in the software giant's Unix products. The implications, if successful, has sent the Linux, a Unix derivative, and the whole open source community in a tell-spin.


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