UK ISPs in government deal to end illegal file sharing

Peer to peer file sharing

Peer to peer file sharing

Click here to read the BBC News story on the background to this article.

Every month I pay Easynews.com a subscription fee. In return they provide me with access to millions upon billions of bytes of data, posted to UseNet (the original inter-connected-network) – which, when de-coded properly, represents everything from text conversations on scientology and how-to build lego machine guns, to binary file attachments containing MP3 music and MP4 video files (and a fair amount of Frankie Vaughan pics too).

I’ve used AND PAID FOR access to this server for years. I don’t particularly care for the fact that I have no idea who Easynews are, but they don’t appear to have sold my credit card details to anyone thus far and they do provide a service which delivers on its promises; A fast, reliable connection to the content I want, when I want it.

That content, 99.9% of the time, is material which simply wouldn’t be “out there” were it not for people, who share my tastes in music, sharing their collection with me so that I might share mine with them.

It should come as no surprise to those of you who know me, that I do not download modern chart music form the top 40 – far from it and I rather suspect, the day the charts comprise a heady mix of Frank Zappa bootlegs and rare Prince TV appearance video clips, will be the day hell freezes over.

My taste in movies is slightly more traditional, in that I have no time for blockbuster monster movies, action heroes or comic book fantasy – but I do occasionally wait for such titles to be shown on pay-per-view movie channels, where I can view them as intended; with my family, in High Definition, with great sound, in a comfortable seat, eating popcorn – but without having to sit at an uncomfortable angle to peep over some fat smelly boy’s head.

On the whole, though, I prefer watching independent cinema with movies that have powerful story lines told by strong character actors – not, in other words, the kind of movies that get widespread theatrical release or a particularly large marketing budget and certainly not the kind of thing Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV are interested in showing on any of their movie channels.

Where am I to go to access the movies and music I want, if the legitimate channels of distribution don’t see a profit in making them available to me? The answer my friend is peer to peer – and there is nothing some half arsed scheme, designed to frighten me into thinking that my ISP is watching everything I do, can do to stop me.

If we are to presume the UK ISPs can track every single file I download, to such a degree of accuracy that they can tell the difference between a track which is copyrighted material and one which is covered by creative commons licensing, then are we to assume they can also tell me where I send the cheque to the artist I am listening to, and that he or she will get paid directly?

Since this seems to be the biggest concern of BPI, I look forward to this feature of their proposed legitimate download service being rolled out – although I won’t be holding my breath, since I suggest that, in fact, their concerns are rather more to do with the deficit between the projected revenues their greedy little salivations envisaged through their out-dated distribution models and the actual figures they look likely to skim from the artists who actually created the music in the first place, post “the peer to peer generation”.

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Phorm tests by BT were illegal

_44531586_phorm226.gifAs well as Virgin Media adopting the targeted web advertising scheme, Phorm, BT – another of big three players in UK broadband internet, have been found “potentially illegal”, according to a leading digital rights lawyer.

Read the full BBC News article.

The slow and painful death of the internet as we know it

The UK’s biggest Internet Service Provider, Virgin Media, is set to adopt a pilot scheme which could see them sending thousands of letters to their own customers, warning them for illegally downloading music and movies from the internet.

How exactly Virgin plan on monitoring the “three strikes and you’re out” system, isn’t yet clear, but if their recent deal with Phorm is anything to go by, it would seem likely that they plan on simply snooping wholesale on any and all traffic which flows over certain port ranges, deemed to be suspect.

4872-4042virginmediabiglogo.jpgPort 8080, which is used for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol has already been sold to Phorm, so that their software can build up a picture of customer surfing habits, to better target them with in-browser adverts from Phorm’s content partners. Now it would seem that UDP ports 6881, 6999, 7000, 2710 and others used by default in the most popular BitTorrent clients like Azureus and LH-ABC, are to be monitored so that any customer who might be using them to retrieve files of a certain type, such as MP3 audio and MPG video, can be blacklisted if they continue to use them to break the law.

How, exactly, Virgin plan on differentiating between legitimate, freely available copyright-free files, such as those from the thousands of independent, unsigned artists worldwide who want no part of the rip-off cartel which is the music business, is unclear – but it can only be a matter of time before the false positives start rolling in, once the scheme is launched.

One way they could ensure only media which has been legitimately acquired is allowed to flow over their network, into private homes, is to cordon off only those sites which are owned and operated by Virgin Media content affiliates. This recording association’s wet dream would, as an unfortunate side effect, completely demolish the most impressive human achievement since it was first decided it might not be such a bad idea to use our front feet as hands – but apart from that, at least Madonna’s bank balance would just about stay in the black.

Of course, the large-scale bootleggers, using counterfeit CD and DVD sales as a front for drug running and child prostitution and slave trafficking, would continue unabated to flood the emerging economies of China, Africa and India in greater volumes than ever before. The bent engineers at the mastering plants will still manage to squeeze out a few thousand copies of the “for your consideration” glass master discs to Hollywood blockbuster movies every year, which should be just enough to keep Mister Big (and therefore hard to arrest) happy.

Meanwhile, because it isn’t cool to like music that wasn’t recorded more than 5 minutes ago these days, ordinary people in the silent majority, who just want to support their favourite artist, who’s back-catalogue is now owned by Evil Inc., have to hand over £9.99 for an 8 song disc, less than 1% of the retail price for which goes to the artist, containing 6 songs the fan already owns three times over on compilation albums which cost twenty times less to produce than it does to pay the artist to record some new material and go on the road.

Since for all my complaining Virgin are going to do this anyway; and since 99.9% of the population don’t give a shit, because the Daily Mail have told them not to, here’s a short list of demands which might sweeten the pill and convince me to go along with this evil scheme.

  • Virgin Media. When I call you up, to tell you for the 20th time that the kids down the road have kicked open your paper thin green box with all the wires in it, again, you will answer in English from a call centre in Britain. You will say “please” and “thank you”. You will actually fix the green box at the end of the road. In return, I will pay you a monthly fee for your services and might even occasionally watch the 90’s American sit-com drivel you erroneously describe as ‘entertainment’ on your advert riddled, low resolution, MPEG artefact ruined excuse for a TV channel.
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  • Sony BMG. When you sign a contract with an artist, you will make it a requirement of their contract that they tour with a live band, made up of musicians who can actually play their instruments, without auto-tuned vocals or backing tracks, in every part of the world where the album makes more in disc sales, radio play and other revenue streams, than the album cost to produce. In the case of an artist who doesn’t want to play all-live, let them sign to someone else. Yes, that’s right, turn them away. The world, I can assure you, isn’t going to stop spinning, because it is deprived of yet another moron who thinks “famous” is a job description.

Is that asking too much?

Net neutrality and YOU – yes YOU!

With the invention of the printing press, thousands of people around the world were suddenly able to share their views with each other in a way that was inaccessible in times when specialist book writers, mostly the clergy, controlled all the information. As costs involved in printing on quality paper with quality inks spiralled, large publishers began taking away control over the independent presses and replacing them with content they produced in-house.

When the boffins in California first built upon Doug Engelbart’s vision of the future, in which a network of computers around the world would be interconnected, to exchange information, their lofty goals were dependant upon one very important principal. That there would be no difference in the kind of connection private individuals use to receive and transmit on that network to those of the connections used by giant corporations and government agencies. A level playing field, where Joe Blog’s blog has, theoretically at least, just as much chance of becoming a popular destination site as any produced by those of large commercial concerns.

That principal of network neutrality is under threat. The telecommunications companies who’s networks we pay to have installed in our homes and offices, want to syphon off sections of the network and give priority to companies they have content partnerships with – to the detriment, if not the complete removal of content from anyone else.

Anyone who has used BitTorrent or other Peer to Peer clients recently will be all too aware of the packet shaping which is slowing down these platforms because of pressure on the ISPs from organisations like the RIAA and other anti-piracy groups, who feel that the legitimate use of these platforms is outweighed by their use for illegal means.

Now, and for the last few years in fact, AT&T and other large American telcos, with subsidiaries in nations around the world, are using their huge influence with lobbyists in Washington, to persuade congress to overturn the net neutrality bill in favour of allowing them greater control over the content which flows over their fiber optic infrastructure. They want, for example, to be able to offer connection packages to customers which will only allow a tiered access to certain sites. They also want to charge the bigger internet companies a premium for delivering their content to customers who want to continue accessing the internet as it is today.

Imagine, for example, that wordpress.com struck up a deal with, let’s say, Yahoo!. Yahoo!, as a larger entity strikes up a deal with AT&T to carry all of it’s partner content. So, you continue being able to read this blog and the millions of others on wordpress.com and everyone is happy, right? Wrong. Because, on the other side of the pond, here in the UK, my Internet Service Provider is in competition with AT&T – and they don’t have a deal with Yahoo! in regard to the wordpress partnership. So while you can perfectly well read other wordpress sites, my ISP won’t allow me access to wordpress without upping the cost of my connection tariff to cover the price they are being charged by AT&T to enable non-partner content across their network.

Extrapolate that out across millions of web sites, thousands of law-suites and an endless ocean of piss and tears for ordinary stuck in the middle people like me and you and you’re somewhere close to seeing why it’s important for each and every one of us to call our political representatives and alert them to the issue and our concerns about it.

In the UK you can find your MP’s contact information here…
http://www.writetothem.com/

Ask your MP to look into any deals which may have been struck up between the government and companies like Virgin Media and BT, for example, in regard to this. Also, in the UK, bare in mind a recent development which saw Virgin Media (formerly NTL) strike up a deal with a company called Phorm who, given access by Virgin to your personal information, plan on infiltrating your net traffic to plant targeting advertisements in your browser and elsewhere. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/18/technology/18target.html?ei=5088&en=507e2b685f0bcc6d&ex=1360990800&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all

Virgin Media, by the way, were once in negotiations with the Carlyle Group over a possible take over. The Carlyle group is the company who’s board is referred to as the ex-presidents club, because it counts among it’s number John Major, former British PM and George Bush senior – who was at a meeting of the Carlyle Group on the morning of September 11 with Bin Laden’s brother. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/02/business/media/02virgin.html