October 30, 2003

Attacking P2P With P2P [9:10 am]

A press release at MI2N leads me to the company Meier Worldwide Intermedia (and their noxious splash screen) and their subsidiary, Covenant Corporation. A ClariNews site article passes along this interesting business plan:

Covenant is developing a service designed to counteract online piracy of video, music and software files. Covenant’s primary service essentially uploads to pirate sites a large number of fictitious files with a video, music or software name, making it more difficult for visitors to the pirate site to download the real video, music or software they are attempting to pirate.

The MI2N press release cited above is a little more explicit:

To preview tracks of artists including New School, individuals can join Covenant at no charge to become members and have the opportunity to win cash and prizes by helping combat piracy in the industry and protect the artists. By downloading Covenant’s patent-pending CMD program at www.protectedbycovenenat.com, members earn the unique opportunity to not only preview music before it is released, but also play a key role in the fight against piracy.

Covenant Corporation, is developing a service designed to counteract online piracy of video, music and software files. Covenant’s primary service essentially uploads to pirate sites a large number of fictitious files with a video, music or software name, making it more difficult for visitors to the pirate site to download the real video, music or software they are attempting to pirate.

Note that the ProtectedByCovenant site is a little less clear about what’s going on. From their what is it/intro page

However you heard of us, here is all you need to know about becoming a member of Team Covenant.

Acting on behalf of the artists you love, Covenant distributes promotional versions of upcoming songs via popular P2P systems such as Kazaa or Gnutella. All you have to do is download our program called the Covenant Media Distributor (CMD). The CMD then automatically downloads new mp3s from our servers to your computer so that others can preview pre-release tracks. This simple process automatically makes you eligible to win a metric buttload of cash. Just leave the CMD running; the longer you leave it on, the more cash you can win!

Why do we do this? Well, the internet allows these bands to get their music heard, and it is waaaaay cheaper to do it this way than to pay a ton of radio stations, stores etc.

The party line defending this approach can be found in this fawning article from ION Magazine:

This may sound like the pitch of a business man trying to overestimate the state-of-the- scene buy [sic] Meier is right on the money. It is the major labels and the artists that the file-sharers are stealing from and thus causing them to lose money. If the labels lose money so do the artists, which mean only the highest selling artists get release priority. In turn, less new acts are developed and released as the labels have fewer resources to promote and market these up-and-coming musical acts. At this point it is not the fault of the labels for not bringing new acts to the forefront but the online consumers who are draining the pockets of the major labels and artists. This is what pissess off consumers the most, hearing the same stuff over and over again, when what they want more than anything is that new hot single from whoever is the artist of the moment. You see that vicious cycle again?

A cute pitch, and a nasty product. I can just imagine the countermeasures that one might see deployed. IANAL, but I wonder just what sort of liability one might be exposed to by joining an organization that pays you to corrupt a digital information distribution network?

(Note that there’s been some material in the wind since March about this.)

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