2003 May 03

(entry last updated: 2003-05-03 19:31:56)

  • The New York Times reports that the record companies are getting ready to play with fire: Software Bullet Is Sought to Kill Musical Piracy [pdf]. This is Overpeer and others, of course. Larry Lessig is quoted as saying this is potentially illegal, but these guys are getting desperate, I guess.

    Some of the world’s biggest record companies, facing rampant online piracy, are quietly financing the development and testing of software programs that would sabotage the computers and Internet connections of people who download pirated music, according to industry executives.

    The record companies are exploring options on new countermeasures, which some experts say have varying degrees of legality, to deter online theft: from attacking personal Internet connections so as to slow or halt downloads of pirated music to overwhelming the distribution networks with potentially malicious programs that masquerade as music files.

    The covert campaign, parts of which may never be carried out because they could be illegal under state and federal wiretap laws, is being developed and tested by a cadre of small technology companies, the executives said.

    …”There are a lot of things you can do — some quite nasty,” said Marc Morgenstern, the chief executive of Overpeer, a technology business that receives support from several large media companies. Mr. Morgenstern refused to identify his clients, citing confidentiality agreements with them. He also said that his company does not and will not deploy any programs that run afoul of the law. “Our philosophy is to make downloading pirated music a difficult and frustrating experience without crossing the line.” And while he said “we develop stuff all the time,” he was also quick to add that “at the end of the day, my clients are trying to develop relationships with these people.” Overpeer, with 15 staff members, is the largest of about a dozen businesses founded to create counterpiracy methods.

    The music industry’s five “majors” — the Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal; the Warner Music Group, a unit of AOL Time Warner; Sony Music Entertainment; BMG, a unit of Bertelsmann; and EMI — have all financed the development of counterpiracy programs, according to executives, but none would discuss the details publicly. Warner Music issued a statement saying: “We do everything we feel is appropriate, within the law, in order to protect our copyrights.” A spokeswoman for Universal Music said that the company “is engaging in legal technical measures.”

    Slashdot: RIAA Plans Cyverwar Effort