December 20, 2004 12:52 PM PST

BitTorrent file-swapping networks face crisis

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for efficient distribution of big files, not underground file-swapping that has to keep a step ahead of the law, he said. Some of the same features that made it useful have rendered it deeply susceptible to the overnight crisis in which the file traders have now found themselves.

"It's weird that it hasn't happened sooner," Cohen said. "The main reason warez (a slang term for illegally distributed software) has become so big is that it hasn't been cracked down on. They've been getting away with being pretty flagrant."

BitTorrent's strength is Achilles heel
Although often mentioned in the same breath as Kazaa or eDonkey, two popular post-Napster file-swapping networks, BitTorrent is actually a very different tool.

Other leading peer-to-peer services aimed to create shifting networks of computers linked over the Internet, in which people could search for specific files and download them from other people's hard drives.

Early versions such as Napster funneled all the searches through a central server, making them relatively easy for groups like the recording industry or the MPAA to shut down. Shutting the central server down through lawsuits or other means would kill the entire network.

"It's weird that it hasn't happened sooner...The main reason warez has become so big is that it hasn't been cracked down on."
--Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent

Newer file-swapping networks such as Kazaa, eDonkey and Gnutella are decentralized, without any central point, however. Searches are relayed through the network by individual users' computers. Taking out any of these points has no significant effect on the network as a whole. This makes them much harder to shut down.

Cohen's creation was built around a significantly different model. Each single file is essentially a separate network, controlled by a special "tracker" server that contains all the information about the file itself, where it's located, and who is uploading or downloading it at any given time.

In order to become part of this network, a user has to download a "torrent" file that includes all the information about the requested content and instructions on how to find the tracker server. These torrent files are typically posted on Web sites or distributed through chat services like Internet Relay Chat

Once the torrent is activated, a user becomes part of that file's network, simultaneously downloading bits of the file and uploading them to others once they've been received. This two-way "swarming" traffic makes for fast file-swaps compared with earlier generations of download tools.

However, Web sites like SuprNova and others that operated

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21 comments

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illegal downloading does not pay off
People who download illegal movies should realize that they are paying a high price for these movies. Most people get a high speed cable broadband service so they can download at high speed. They often pay upto $45 per month for this serivce. It would be wiser for these people to just get a slightly lower speed dsl connection (sbc_yahoo $26) and spend the other money to actualy buy DVDs or go to theatre and watch movies. People waste time downloading and the quality is not as good as buying your own DVD is not good anyway.
and lastly I think the article correctly points out that these networks will never go away. It just moves underground. No one can claim victory yet. This is the begining of the begining.
Posted by lavacentral (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
illegal file swapping???
This activity is only illegal because the mpaa and the riaa says it is. You and too many other people are of the false impression that this is theft. THIS IS NOT THEFT. There are certain realities to this whole thing that are being ignored specificly to mislead people.

This thing is NOT about the morality of the downloader, it is about the screwed up thinking of the power hungry money grubing heads in Hollywood and in the recording industry.

These people give this to us to use and then get upset because we use it.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Link Flag
You're completely wrong
If people spent their money only on an internet connection just for downloading, then Speakeasy and other high quality ISPs wouldn't make any money at all. People game online as well, competitively or just for fun, and latency is very much an issue.
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
MPAA is going to loose this battle
Wait...you must be working for the MPAA or whatever copyright monster that is out there.

There are now dvd rips that are in near dvd qualiti and whit good enugh sound for pepole.

You are in the dark, whit no light and no guide.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Pays off.....?
A month of quality broadband: 40-50$.
All the same for multiple means of entertainment.

A night at the movies with wife and kids: 40-50$.
Another night at the movies, another 40-50$.etc.

Its pays off for me...

If only they can lower the prices of tickets, I may be able to afford to see the movies. If dvds and vhs were only cheaper, perhaps I can have the resources to have a collection. If the fat cats of the AA's can afford to lose an extra gold watch each, or not use diamonds as ice cubes, so all of us can get lower prices for this entertainment. Then just, call me crazy, people will be able to go out and have a good time without using rent money.

People like to use the statistics of how college campuses is considered ground zero for downloading movies. They blame it on the fact that kids could have access to broadband which in turn makes it attractive to download movies. Nevermind the fact that there are over 20 million homes hooked up to broadband... Why are there so many college students downloading? MONEY. Everyone that has had the chance to attend to college can vouch from experience, college kids are POOR. How can the avg. student who works as a waiter or retail rep, making 7 dollars/hr afford to pay 10 dollars everytime they want to see a movie, then another 10 for popcorn and drink? Affordability is key.

We have also seen the MPAA itself just released an all time high for sales records just a few months ago. Were there not downloaders then too... were there not downloaders for years...?

I myself would love to own the list of movies I want on dvd, but until I can recieve a pay raise, I see no cheaper alternative. I can only afford to go out on special occasions(anniv.), and save up for really large ones(family vacations). Something that is done everyday does not need to be so expensive. My wife and kids love the movies I get, and through technology I can project onto our TV. Life is hard enough, no need to take away the few things that make it easier by over milking the profits.

-my 2 cents.

"we all have our own opinions, mine is based only from experience..."
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
Finally, a story that mentions the legit uses of BitTorrent
...even if it is on page 3.

My first experience with BitTorrent was as a way to download Linux distributions. A lot of the smaller ones, and even the bigger ones like Fedora and Mandrake, have been using BitTorrent to distribute their install CD images.

For smaller projects, it's a matter of necessity. They couldn't afford the bandwidth otherwise, and I've seen some of them hold donation drives just to be able to pay for their web hosting. For the bigger ones, it's a way to supplement their network of mirror sites. Given the rush that often hits new releases, being able to "join the torrent" is sometimes the only way for early adopters to get onboard.
Posted by Kelson (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not just Linux distros..
But Windows SP2 was also downloaded by many using BitTorrent just after its release. Many sites offers larg vid files also offer a torrent link. Also, seeding a torrent is a good way to offer something back to a project without donating money to it. I would like to see I site like Suprnova.org launh offering only legal torrents.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
This is a bad presedent
This is the start of the very thing that will end up making the internet too cumbersum to use.

Pay close attention......

The ability to use the internet FOR ANYTHING is taking a beating.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well, that's what you get...
Well, that's what you get when you have incompetent people writing legislation and the ignorant running major organizations. If they don't understand the technology they'll just shrug it off.
Posted by (3 comments )
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Reply
While there is ability to use the net anyway you see fit it doesn't mean that use is legal or that there won't be some consquences for those actions. Despite the Internet being global users are still bound by the laws in their country. In this case the MPAA is targeting trackers from sites like SuprNova.org that have links to massive amounts of pirated content. They're not going after trackers used to allow people to download Linux for example.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
Peer-to-peer won't be stopped so easily
The 'establishment' RIAA/MPAA forced a web-site to
shut-down. This will slow the revolution down for
months or weeks but will not stop it. The fundamental behaviours (technological and social) behind sharing are much stronger than any army of lawyers.

The next phase will be even more distributed than
the torrent phase. Central servers and initial
seeds will be replaced by clients that dynamically
discover their peers using techniques pioneered
in port-scanning worms.

The problem of proving that so-and-so served your
content to someone else will be made intractible
in a few more generations of software. To sue
people, industry lawyers will have to prove that
hundreds of computers were configured in a certain
fashion and that certain sequences of messages
were exchanged with malice of forethought.

It will be impossible to do this to any acceptable
standard of evidence when you consider that the
users are located in dozens of jurisdictions.

How much complexity would you like to use today ?
Posted by (1 comment )
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Reply
this attempt by the MPAA at least doesn't seemed to be targeted at stopping BitTorrent or eDonkey just shutting down servers and trackers used by some to illegally distribute movies.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
When the net itself would be storage
> clients that dynamically discover their peers
> using techniques pioneered in port-scanning worms

This is still looking for pointers to where info is stored as bits on a disk. How about storing the info as traffic patterns over the network itself? Then the lawyers will have to sue the whole internet for collectively storing a single copyrighted file!
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Link Flag
Very true, unless...
What you say is true the software can change so that it would be next to impossible for the RIAA and MPAA to prove anything or even locate anyone.

But, do you really think that it would make it that far? Long before this software could make it to consumers a law would be passed making P2P software illegal and an automatic 5 or 10 year prison term for anyone caught with the software.

If you don't think such a law is possible, consider the induce act. It may not pass right now, but if people insist on stealing and coming up with ways to do it in the dark then dumb ass law makers will pass it. They will pass it or something like that could be worse so fast it would cause whiplash.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
Link Flag
The MPAA/RIAA are cutting the branch they're sitting on!
The MPAA/RIAA are cutting the branch they're sitting on!

What they shut down have nothing to do with the nature of bittorrent. They were just websites storing pointers to resources, and those resources might as well have been http or ftp links. So what now? There will not be central repositories of torrents? Then people would get used to searching for them using Google, and find those links scattered all around the web. What then? the MPAA would shut Google down? or censor the web? Eventually people would realize that the price paid to supporting their monopoly on content is not worth it. The only reason they have this monopoly is a law passed a 100 years ago after a supreme court decision that recorded music does not enjoy copyright protection. The law was changed then. It can be changed now. There is no need for these distributors (MPAA/RIAA) in an era when artists can reach the public directly using the internet.

Once there were people that were annoyed by all the taxes they had to pay to one king. But they continued paying. But one day they decided that taxing their tea is just too much, and they realized that they don't need this king. So they replaced the king. The act of replacement of the king was not legal at all in terms of the existing law back then in that jurisdiction. It was illegal, and it was violent. Many people died in the process, but the survivors enjoyed new and much better laws.

Laws are not absolute. They are made by people to serve people. They should balance interests. When the balance is broken something is wrong. But people tend to hold on when the balance is broken. And when it becomes more unbalanced to hold tighter. Eventually they realize they must jump off. And then the other side falls!

Sorry for the poor English. I hope the moral is understood...
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
big deal..
the majority of the user will just switch to Usenet newsgruops and IRC channels, since they are still under the radar scope of BayTSP.

and once anonymous p2p like mute (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://mute-net.sourceforge.net" target="_newWindow">http://mute-net.sourceforge.net</a>) hits mainstream, BayTSP can't do a damn thing about it. that will be the end of **AA. then, what can they do? shut down all internet routers?

technology is a payback, doesn't it?
Posted by (1 comment )
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