September 20, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Leaked e-mails reveal MediaDefender's antipiracy woes

The antipiracy company MediaDefender was under attack long before hundreds of its e-mails were stolen and exposed to the Web.

One of the largest companies offering to protect copyright music and movies from online piracy, MediaDefender's credibility and competence are now being questioned following a security breach that led to more than 6,000 of the company's e-mails being posted to the Web. Industry sources confirmed the authenticity of the e-mails.

Besides casting light on controversial tactics employed by MediaDefender, the company's correspondence also show it was buckling under the weight of a mushrooming file-swapping community and growing skepticism from entertainment executives about the effectiveness of antipiracy services.

"We're still not seeing you guys perform well on Soulseek," a peer-to-peer file-sharing community, one Sony executive said in an e-mail that was viewed by CNET "Can you please investigate the problem and actually solve it (going on months now). In my most recent search I selected Beyonce "Beautiful Liar" and was able to download almost everything.

"I think that one of the problems in general is that you can't put a $100 piece of security on something that sells for 99 cents."
--Chris Castle
longtime music industry attorney and executive

"If you can't provide a good solution," continued the Sony executive, "we will either have to request serious credits or pull this network from your services. As it stands right now it's a waste of our resources at this level of protection."

So how did the file-sharing hunter become the hunted, apparently attacked by a group calling itself the MediaDefender-Defenders? Give credit--or blame--to a technology battle in which widely scattered file sharers are outmaneuvering entertainment conglomerates.

What MediaDefender and its competitors do for those big entertainment outfits is fairly simple, even if the technology is complex: they alert copyright holders if their content is circulating on the Web and send legal "takedown" notices to sites hosting unauthorized copies of films or songs. They also attempt to disrupt file sharing.

They've been around since file sharing hit the Internet, led by outfits such as the pioneering NetPD, which started tracking the IP addresses of people sharing music on Napster. Following Napster's demise, the next wave of less centralized file-sharing networks, such as Gnutella, led to a new breed of copyright protector.

"There was a period in 2002 or 2003 when the music industry really bought into the antipiracy business," said Eric Garland, CEO of Big Champagne, a company that tracks online entertainment. "MediaDefender emerged as the lead vendor. (Music executives) celebrated wildly when the Napster verdict came down, but were highly disappointed when the courts didn't save them. They believed that technology would be the answer. They really wanted that to be true."

Antipiracy's ups and downs
Seven-year-old MediaDefender thrived in those antipiracy boom years, Garland said. The company says on its Web site that it has worked for every major record label and movie studio. Last year, ArtistDirect, a digital-entertainment company, acquired the Santa Monica, Calif., company.

Some of MediaDefender's competitors didn't fare as well and buckled under the music industry's unrealistic expectations, Garland said. The antipiracy start-ups never promised to sweep the Web of file sharing, but that wasn't what the music companies wanted to hear, he said. File tracking became harder and harder while file sharing got better and better. When performance failed to meet high expectations, record companies became disillusioned. The music industry began setting performance targets and hiring companies to test efficacy.

"After the first blush of enthusiasm faded, the antipiracy companies began disappearing," Garland said. "The music...industry wanted a quick fix and there just wasn't any."

Some of the better known companies of that period, such as Reciprocal, Vidius, Overpeer, Ranger Online and NetPD, no longer exist as standalone antipiracy companies. A few shut down; others were acquired or changed models.

MediaDefender combats piracy with four different approaches, according to an item in the blog Arstechnica. Among them is a technique called decoying, which entails sending empty files that mislead file sharers into believing that they are downloading a movie or song file.

MediaDefender also tries to load corrupt data into unauthorized files. This would work on older protocols such as FastTrack/Kazaa, but the company had no answer for BitTorrent--the Michael Jordan of file-sharing tools, nearly impossible to defend against.

BitTorrent breaks a file into many pieces and is distributed among many different users. A hash file is used to reassemble the pieces. Unlike protocols that came before, BitTorrent evaluates a file in its entirety and automatically boots junk bits and bytes.

Swarming is another strategy that describes an attempt by MediaDefender to pound BitTorrent files with corrupt data. It can't corrupt the file, but the technique is designed to hang up the reassembling process, which can mean slower download times. Nonetheless, the emergence of BitTorrent and its seeming imperviousness to corruption meant that an entire category of protection was cut off for companies like MediaDefender.

CONTINUED: Ineffective efforts…
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The Industry is to Blame
Why is piracy so big on the internet? Maybe consumers are sick to death of being ripped off. People are growing tired of $20 CDs with one or two good songs. $50 for the DVD of Psych containing only 15 episodes??? ***? Better shows like Lost and Stargate SG-1 have far more episodes and cheaper / more realistic price. HBO shows are insane, $89 for Carnivale? As much as I loved that show, I don't love it to spend almost $200 for 2 freaking seasons of a show they canceled.

Their greed and unwilling to evolve with technology and the times has put them in this place.

I love how coming into 2000, the RIAA blamed Napster for the slowing record sales... yet the fact that most of the music in the late 90's sucked ass, the fact that we were just hit by the tech bubble bursting, the recession and so on... none of that had anything to do with it, no! It was those gosh darn internet pirates.

I swear who ever runs these studios and labels are mildly retarded.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It has nothing to do with...
Intelligence. They want to keep their broken system and will do whatever to whoever to do it. If that means blaming these companies or getting our lame duck government to pass more laws that do nothing but turn off the consumers so be it.

The only thing corporate America cares about is money. It all comes down to greed. When that is the soul source of all reasoning and decisions this is what you get.

Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Link Flag
Yes and No.
[i]"Why is piracy so big on the internet?"[/i]

For lots of reasons:

* it's cheaper.

* in earlier days, few in the software biz cared if their apps were copied, and many considered it a form of marketing (see also Windows 3.1).

* Greed. You were dead-on ab't this w/ regards to entertainment media.

Then again, when it comes to entertainment media, the porn industry almost doesn't seem to care about their products being p2p'd, and yet they still make money hand-over-fist.

As a not-so-lewd parallel, the anime film and show makers have their stuff p2p'd all the time, but with a twist or two: most p2p anime are "fansubs", where fans provide the translated subtitles. Also, once an anime series is available in the US, the p2p versions pretty much dry up online. The anime crowd has a code of honor - in that if you can buy it locally, they'd prefer that you do. Me, I remember discovering Cowboy Bebop that way, years and years ago... where each episode was at 320xsomething resolution and took forever to download. When I saw that it became available for purchase in the US (via the web), I happily shelled out ~$180 for the DVD set (27 episodes + soundtrack CD).

Getting back to the RI/MPAA, they're kind of screwed. Napster was a turning point, and they're beginning to realize that they simply cannot 'monetize the eschaton', for lack of a better phrase. They're either going to have to change their business model, or simply die.

As for MediaDefender? It's a mixture of wonder, admiration, and derisive laughter. I wonder at what it takes for someone to basically **** off the world. I admire their skill in BS'ing the AA's (really - you simply cannot even hope to slow the tide, let alone turn it back. You may as well start bailing out the ocean one bucket at a time for all the good it will do). I laugh derisively at their bluster, bluff, and outright amateurish reactions to all of this (a real pro would've had a hell of a lot more control and composure over the situations at hand, ne?)

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
I agree with you.
Also I am sick not being able to buy any movie I want without it NOT being in stock or "Sorry we don't carry that anymore." or the all too familiar GO buy it from the web! or:

Salesman says, "Sorry that title is not being sold in stores or online anymore. It has been discontinued."

Hollywood has killed off its entire line of 1970's sci-fi movies?
I just want to buy the movie "THE KEEP" part 1 and part 2 !!!
So what if it got lousy reviews... i'm trying to build a nice library of videos in my living room.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Link Flag
The Problem with Piracy
Thanks to the Internet and software the act of piracy, which was enjoyed by geeks, nerds and hackers, is now performed by pretty much anyone. What used to cost he industry a million or two a year has ballooned into a billion dollar problem.
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes and No
For it to be a billion dollar problem you actually have to have lost a billion dollars. The industry hasn't lost a billion. They have not earned as much as they think they should have.

The Industry should perhaps take advantage of one thing. Pirated materials are disposable. Someone with a hard drive of songs has no vested interested in any of it. They can get it again, but with a lot of work. That's the key.

The industry has a chance to actually add some value to electronic formatted music. If they do they may do well.
Posted by Renegade Knight (13748 comments )
Link Flag
Anit Piracy Resolved
My system GURFRIP SystemZ or Global Utility Restructure for Relative Intelligent Process, based upon my GURFRIP PATENT wholly resolves the issue of electronic media piracy.

As I am the LEGITIMATE inventor of You Tube and am involved in a substancial criminal investigation of Google, I will be happy to discuss the merits of the new system with legitimate ethical potential partners.

I've learned my lesson about online piracy by corporate giant GOOGLE quite well.

I fixed it.


James Reginald Harris, Jr.
Posted by gurfrip (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HAHA ! Down with Media Defender!
Too funny and I just chuckle even more when Media Defender sends out their team of "lawyers" pissing threats to the email hosting sites.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The media companies should be asking themselves...
The media companies should be asking themselves,"Why do people pirate our stuff?"

I think that pirates fall into two overlapping groups.

The collectors just want to get the biggest load of illegal stuff they can. They never watch 90% of what they download, it is all about ego. These people may **** off the RIAA/MPAA, however, they do little real damage.

The second group are the people who just don't have any money. They may be disabled and unemployed, They may be 12 years old. They may work for minimum wage and not get as many hours as they want. If they did not pirate, they would purchase very little, If you don't have money, you don't buy $500 a month in DVD's.

Both groups are breaking the law, however, the movie and music industries should ask themselves, "Is the money we spend going after this problem getting us any return, or is it only pissing off our customers?"

If you spend $100 dollars to stop someone from downloading $10 worth of stuff, causing your paying customers to not buy $500 of your product, just because you made them mad, you have something of a net loss. (Sorry for the run on sentence. I have never been good at turning math into words.)
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It is of most importance with all businesses protect the security of data, employee, customer information. This stands well to prove that any business can come under attack of a network security breach. Protection against these security infraction must always be the very first line of defence.
Posted by BKCP7 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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