New UW study on issues with p2p enforcement methods

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Michael Piatek, Tadayoshi Kohno, Arvind Krishnamurthy, from the UW’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, have released a new study of issues arising from the way the entertainment industry is attempting to enforce copyright on peer-to-peer networks.
As they told me last week, they were originally doing research on ways to improve the BitTorrent protocol. The University began to receive a steady stream of DMCA copyright complaints about their servers, even though those servers were not actually sharing any files at all. They then began to research why they were getting those spurious complaints, and the paper details what they found.
In short, they found that some of the industry investigation methods did not go far enough to verify that there were actual files being offered, that it is fairly easy to maliciously spoof IP addresses to finger other people for sharing files, that the reporting of when files were shared is not always accurate, and that it’s pretty easy to identify industry monitoring processes on BitTorrent.
It’s useful to note that they contrast two monitoring methods that they call indirect detection (relying only on the list of files that a “tracker” says are available from a given set of peers); and direct detection (where an actual connection to the peer is made and an attempt is made to verify what the tracker has reported). If you read recent reports on the RIAA’s reporting of their methodologies (as I blogged a couple of weeks back or as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Ed), you’ll note that the RIAA says it’s doing the direct detection method, and going further to try and compare a hash of the actual file to a known list of file hashes. That may account for why the paper’s authors only received five complaints about music sharing out of the 487 complaints they analyzed.
The authors use the evidence they’ve gathered to call for more open conversation and information sharing from the industry about their detection methods and their efficacy. I couldn’t agree more – it’s been great to see the RIAA begin that sharing, and I hope we’ll see the other industry players follow suit.

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