December 30, 2004

Wired Looks At Pirate Nets [7:41 am]

Shadow Networks Spawn Bootlegs

It’s a commonly held belief that P2P is about sharing files. It’s an appealing, democratic notion: Consumers rip the movies and music they buy and post them online. But that’s not quite how it works.

In reality, the number of files on the Net ripped from store-bought CDs, DVDs, and videogames is statistically negligible. People don’t share what they buy; they share what is already being shared - the countless descendants of a single “Adam and Eve” file. Even this is probably stolen; pirates have infiltrated the entertainment industry and usually obtain and rip content long before the public ever has a chance to buy it.

The whole shebang - the topsites, the pyramid, and the P2P networks girding it all together - is not about trading or sharing at all. It’s a broadcast system. It takes a signal, the new U2 single, say, and broadcasts it around the world. The pirate pyramid is a perfect amplifier. The signal becomes more robust at every descending level, until it gets down to the P2P networks, by which time it can be received by anyone capable of typing “U2″ into a search engine.

This should be good news for law enforcement. Lop off the head (the topsites), and the body (the worldwide trade in unlicensed media) falls lifeless to the ground. Sounds easy, but what if you can’t find the head?

Later - Slashdot’s got two articles; Inside the Shadow Internet and Online Groups Behind Bulk of Bootleg Films (& Games)

Later: The Boston Globe picks up an LA Times article - Bootlegged films building online [pdf]

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