HBO goes on BitTorrent piracy offensive

— 1:50 AM on October 7, 2005

HBO is going on the offensive, poisoning BitTorrent downloads of one of its new programs.

HBO is actively poisoning the BitTorrent downloads of the new show Rome. In addition to an older tactic of offering bogus downloads that never complete, HBO is now obstructing the downloads offered by other people. BitTorrent downloads are peer-to-peer, but the peers are introduced to each other by a tracker ("you're looking for Rome Season 1 Episode 2, talk to"). HBO runs peers that tell the tracker they have all the chunks of the show, but then send garbage data when a downloader requests a chunk. The downloading client can detect that it's garbage and will try another peer for the chunk, but the end result is that it takes much much longer to download shows.
While seeding peer-to-peer networks with garbage is nothing new, the fact that copyright holders continue to fund the practice suggests that it could be discouraging casual pirates. Experienced peer-to-peer users have already found ways to skirt HBO's efforts by blacklisting poison peers, but less savvy P2P pirates may soon find themselves mired in garbage downloads. Thanks to Slashdot for the tip.
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