New weapons in the war against file sharing

— 5:39 AM on January 14, 2003

Wired has the goods on Overpeer, a potentially potent weapon in the war against the rampant copyright violations proliferated by peer to peer file trading networks. Overpeer doesn't hack, block, or otherwise attack peer to peer clients trading copyrighted works. Instead, the system pollutes the system by degrading the quality of files available on peer to peer networks. Overpeer's CEO won't say exactly how the system works, but Overpeer's patent application lists the following:

1) Search for digital music file on network.
2) Collect illegally produced digital music file.
3) Edit illegally produced digital music file (damage sound quality).
4) Distribute digital music file on network.
The promiscuous nature of most file sharing suggests that Overpeer's methods could be quite effective at seeding networks with garbage, but this isn't going to bring file sharing to an immediate halt. Hardcore P2P pirates will undoubtedly find a way to validate downloads, but casual file traders may lose interest if finding high quality files becomes more difficult than downloading Kazaa and clicking on a few buttons.

Honestly, I'm all for seeding file sharing networks with garbage files. It's a far better alternative to some of the other tactics that the RIAA is reportedly pursuing:

The RIAA is preparing to infect MP3 files in order to audit and eventually disable file swapping, according to a startling claim by hacker group Gobbles. In a posting to the Bugtraq mailing list, Gobbles himself claims to have offered his code to the RIAA, creating a monitoring "hydra".

"Several months ago, GOBBLES Security was recruited by the RIAA ( to invent, create, and finally deploy the future of antipiracy tools. We focused on creating virii/worm hybrids to infect and spread over p2p nets," writes Gobbles.

Some have questioned the validity of Gobbles' claims, but I certainly wouldn't put it past the RIAA to roll out a P2P worm. After all, a bill has already been proposed that would make it legal for the RIAA to hack copyright violators.

Copyright holders have been actively pursing legal challenges to P2P file sharing for some time, but it looks like they're finally gearing up to fight technology with technology. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any chance of either party hitting above the belt in this fight.

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