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More on Kazaa and Brilliant Digital Spyware 223

Posted by timothy
from the effin-brilliant dept.
Vertigo01 writes: "There is an interesting article from CNN.com on the current state of the Kazaa controversy, and Brilliant Digital's plans for the future. Interesting quotes from the article include a statement saying that 'Altnet's seeded software [will be] awakened some time in May' and that 'Brilliant is negotiating with music labels and movie studios to market their material as well. The files will be copy-protected in some way, using Microsoft's digital rights management encryption technology.'"
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More on Kazaa and Brilliant Digital Spyware

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  • Cancerware Ascendant (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ringbarer (545020)
    Imagine the fun the likes of Brilliant Digital could have when the courts force Microsoft to release their full APIs. Whole new ways to sneak their filthy cancerware onto our machines.
    • Infocalypse Now (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ringbarer (545020) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @07:22AM (#3483447) Homepage Journal
      As a generic moderator-on-crack appears to believe wholeheartedly that the juxtaposition of this news article and a previous one is 'Offtopic', I feel it best to explain a potential 'Nightmare Scenario' on the horizon...

      Assumption One: Cancerware authors are amoral miscreants. Given the track record of the likes of Brilliant Digital, we can safely say that this is a given.

      Assumption Two: One of the biggest advantages of a modularised Windows OS appears to be the ability to switch out the insecure MSHTML renderer as used in Internet Explorer to replace with Gecko and their ilk. Forcing Microsoft to publish the full API would enable a seamless changeover between rendering engines.

      Let's follow this closely. The rendering engine runs as locally executed code, which brings with it additional security issues. I imagine, when push comes to shove, there will be plenty of Microsoft oriented warning messages along the lines of "It may be dangerous to change your rendering engine!" should a user want to make the switch.

      However, fully expect the AOL / Netscape hegemony to complain loudly to the courts that this is FUD, and that it is PERFECTLY safe to switch to Gecko without notifying the user short of a generic EULA type click-through. Microsoft, having received a battering from all corners, will be forced to comply and take the warning out.

      Which brings us back to Assumption One - Cancerware. Cancerware authors are forever looking for increasingly sneaky and devious ways to install their filthy code onto previously stable computers.

      So, take one 'killer app', currently a P2P client, but who knows what the next one will be. Add a clause during installation that some vague 'browser enhancement' software will be installed as a requirement of the killer app. Many people will click through without reading, or just think "Enhancement - Cool!" and let it install.

      What does this browser enhancement do? It acts as a fully functional replacement for the MSHTML module. Thanks to the efforts of Microsoft's competitors, it will install seamlessly, running code with local privledges.

      What can it do? Anything that cancerware does already. Spying, gathering important data like CC numbers, taking control of your machine, uber DDoS, etc. etc. The possibilities rest purely with the devious malevolence of the author. It will, of course, be auto-updating, so even if it's caught out initially as being just another Purple Ape, it can download enhancements to itself to get past most security problems.

      Remember that NO-ONE in the hacking community knew about Brilliant Digital's plans until they made their press releases. Sleeper cancerware, ready to awaken when the stars are right. As MSHTML is part of the Operating System now, for good or ill, it will be loaded on startup, even if the user doesn't open a browser.

      But won't this be noticed by firewall software? Well, assuming consumer-grade firewalls work like Zonealarm, then no. Zonealarm checks for EXE files attempting to access parts of the net that they shouldn't be. But of course, Internet Explorer, being the most common Internet application, will be allowed through. The .exe itself hasn't changed, just a shared library that the exe uses.

      And of course, the only way to uninstall this version of MSHTML would be to delete it, thus breaking anything that wants to use it. Like, err, everything!

      Regardless of any non-Microsoft eliteness, the fact remains that Windows is the most popular PC Operating System for now, and shall be for a long time. This scenario outlined above is one of many potential fallabilities. I can assure you that minds far more devious than my own are concocting their own plans.

      Cancerware is nothing more than barely-legitimized cracking. It seems that replacing "3133t hax0r sp33k" with the terse pseudo-legalese wording of EULAs makes this all acceptable. It isn't. And the sooner more people realise this, the better.

      Of course, any company releasing something like this shall eventually become a target for the authorities. But the arrest of the author of the Melissa Virus didn't magically undo all the damage it caused, right?
      • This definitely would get a +1 Interesting were I a mod this week.

        The good thing (tm) would be that eradicating the MSHTML-replacement-malware would be fairly straightforward - just go grab Gecko and plug THAT in instead. For the paranoid, construct a script to load on startup that verifies the integrity of the Gecko files and their status as the MSHTML-replacement - and fixes things, if necessary.

        Of course, other "piggy-back" components couldn't be eradicated this way - but that's what Ad-Aware is there for.

        As long as there's a way to get new software onto the system, the creeps making this malware will continue to do it. The question is - how long until someone in the gov't gets smacked by one of these, leaks sensitive information as a result, and brings the law crashing down on malware in the name of "National Security"?

        Of course, there's the other way it could swing too...with malware-authors using some kind of legal argument against anti-malware programs like Ad-Aware...I wouldn't put it past them to call it a "Circumvention Device" or somesuch under the DMCA, and attempt to have it banned, although I can't see anything short of a huge bribe convincing any reasonable judge of the validity of such an argument.
        • Re:Infocalypse Now (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Asprin (545477)
          Of course, there's the other way it could swing too...with malware-authors using some kind of legal argument against anti-malware programs like Ad-Aware...I wouldn't put it past them to call it a "Circumvention Device" or somesuch under the DMCA, and attempt to have it banned, although I can't see anything short of a huge bribe convincing any reasonable judge of the validity of such an argument.

          How close are we, for that matter, to some of these bozos putting a line in their EULA stating "you may not uninstall this software or reformat your HD" and sealing the uninstaller with a DMCA-enforcable mechanism, so that the software can't be uninstalled w/o violating the DMCA?

          • Now that is a frightening concept. It is amazing how with a properly written EULA, a deceptive mechanism to get people to "accept" it and the DCMA you could really threaten a lot of civil liberties.

            --Peter
      • When you don't have the source code, and when you can't understand the source code that you do have, you live at the mercy of the vendor. Those are just the added risks that you run with binary software.
      • but by the same token I should then be able to go get an OS browser and be sure of being safe, err as safe as can be on an M$ OS....
  • Kazaa lite! (Score:3, Informative)

    by JustinMWard (456415) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:33AM (#3483365) Homepage
    Just get Kazaa Lite and stop worrying about all this.

    Where to get Kazaa Lite? Well, on Kazaa, of course.. or you could be a weenie and go to their web page [kazaalite.com].
    • Re:Kazaa lite! (Score:3, Informative)

      by JPriest (547211)
      Not just Kazaa [kazaalite.tk] but others are availible or linked from CleanClients.tk [cleanclients.tk]
    • Re:Kazaa lite! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by travdaddy (527149)
      a) Just get Kazaa Lite. I agree.
      b) Stop worrying about this. I disagree.

      What we're seeing here is the most popular spyware on the internet today. So, this Kazaa controversy is going to set a precedent for future programs. Do we want programs to legally be able to run spyware on our computers or not? I vote "No," but some might vote "Yes" or "Only if it tells me about it clearly and I have to Opt-In." Your vote seems to be "I don't care."
  • by iainl (136759) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:34AM (#3483368)
    Am I reading that all wrong, or do they seriously want to piggyback a legal filesharing scheme on the back of Kazaa? I can almost see the argument of saying "Don't trust that file you've just found? Why not fork out for the real version?", but on the other hand, are the RIAA going to come within a nautical mile of something that also does illegal filesharing.
    • Aagh! The irony nazi's summary of the current state of affairs:

      1. Stealing MP3s is illegal. Somebody will post an intelligently worded comment that will be modded to +5 based upon this premise. Most of the other comments that point this out will be modded -1 Troll.

      2. RIAA Screws over artists and consumers. Like we didn't know this already. </sarcasm>

      3. Kazaa is a file sharing network, even if it is a *spyware* file sharing network. If the RIAA feels it can make more money without the Kazaa Spynet, then it won't negotiate with Kazaa. Plain and simple. If the RIAA geniuses have an idea that they think will make bigger $$$ then they will do it. They will then sue Kazaa who needs illegal MP3s to make their network popular, yet will be sued if they use them. (napster all over again).

      4. RIAA will come out with their own draconian file format and continue to blame illegal file sharing whenever the consumer chooses getting more *value* for their money (via trading MP3s) as opposed to getting less *value* for more money (restricted and encrypted non-MP3 formats). Personally, I blame capitalism for this consumer decision, not file sharing. I feel that I have a right, as a consumer, to choose the file format, distribution technique, and amount that I pay. Although this argument shouldn't be used to justify illegal copying of music, in a sense, one can assign a $$ value for breaking the law. I would surely pay a small amount of money for music just to know that I wasn't doing anything illegal. I would place even more value (i.e. pay more) if I knew that the artist was getting a significant portion of what I was paying.

      A long time ago (~1996), I said that the recording industry will never be able to do away with an open audio format (at least as open as MP3 is). The reason why is because they will have to offer something with much more *percieved* value than what I can download for free and play on any music device. No more $14 CDs (a new CD was $14 at the time).

      • Hmm...

        1.:
        true

        2.:
        true

        3.:
        Kazaa *IS* legal. They won in court. That's it.

        4.:
        I like the first part, but I don't think that the RIAA wants to go deeper into this "strange-new-internet-thing". They'll just sue away as much as they can...

        Somehow the RIAA reminds of my old 3DFX Voodoo5 graphics card. It was nothing fancy, but brute force acceleration, like the RIAA has nothing but brute force sueing.
        Well 3DFX died out...
  • that kazaa is moving ahead with these plans
    I am sure that they know how bad PR it is

    Just checking, I use kazaa lite - is that part of this altnet network?
    I hope not :)

    I'm really getting fed up of companies not treating us like human beings - but just doing everything they can to squeeze every last bit of profit out of us
    Whatever happened to common decency in this world...
    • Re:I am stunned (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jukal (523582)
      Which part stuns you? They have found a potential source of income. People don't care. They'll install anything on their machine. In their privacy statement [kazaa.com] they clearly state that they collect any information they can, and use much of that information any way they want. In their resource usage [kazaa.com] page they say that they also can steal 10% of your CPU power.

      They have said it all loud and clear, and if you install the software, you practically give them the right to use your computer and information gathered for anything they want. No-one has to install this piece of software, it's your own choice.

      Sometime someone said, "think before you type"... you should also "think before you download".
      • Re:I am stunned (Score:2, Informative)

        by psychofox (92356)
        Actually, what is says is when you are acting a super node, up to 10% of your CPU may be used by virtue of the fact that you are acting as a search engine type host for many of the nodes connected to you...

        It does not imply that they can take 10% of your CPU and then use it to crack encryption codes or whatever...
      • Rather like the new MS licenses, isn't it. I'm a bit surprised that someone beat MS to the draw on this one, but not that it happened. There have been too many signs pointing in this direction. I expect the next few years to be quite "exciting". I really doubt that MS and Brilliant are the only ones with this kind of intent and talent, and even after being explicitly warned about dangers the "wise decision makers" go ahead and install anything they want. They just won't believe that the EULAs mean what they say.

        That I do was the impetus behind my original switch to Linux. And it's one of the reasons that it is impossible, literally, for MS software to be good enough to be acceptable. They could have DWIM software, and it still wouldn't be good enough. Not with those licenses.
        • HiThere wrote:

          > Rather like the new MS licenses, isn't it. I'm a bit surprised that
          > someone beat MS to the draw on this one, but not that it happened.

          Believe me, Microsoft beat them to it long ago. They started their Millenium research project (now marketed as .Net) in 1996:

          http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/1999 /0 3-01mill.asp

          It made an appearance (in evil alien / giant monster form) in Toho's "Godzilla 2000 Millenium". The americanized version "Godzilla 2000" was made by people who thought the Millenium reference was to the year 2000 or to the Y2K bug, and chopped it off as old news. A shame really, considering how spooky the scene was when all the computers hacked into by the alien began displaying the words "Millenium", "Kingdom", etc. Fortunately they left in the cool scene where the alien attempts to literally embrace and extend Godzilla. The Mac loving, Microsoft hating Monster King charges down his throat and lets loose with one heck of a thermonuclear explosion that finishes Millenium for good.

          > I really doubt that MS and Brilliant are the only ones with this kind of
          > intent and talent,

          Once Microsoft gathers up all the Windows computers in the world into its .Net; there won't be any for other schemes to gobble up. They will have to swim in Microsoft's sea.

          > and even after being explicitly warned about dangers the "wise
          > decision makers" go ahead and install anything they want. They just
          > won't believe that the EULAs mean what they say.

          I believe Microsoft's EULAs for XP have a clause that allows Microsoft to upgrade whatever they want. That's enough for them to put Millenium on someone's computer without the owner's sayso.

          Mind you, I don't think Microsoft will win. Their Millenium (thousand year rule) can be stopped:

          1) .Net requires always on, affordable broadband internet access for everyone everywhere. Do you really see that happening anytime soon?

          2) X-box was supposed to be the home Millenium terminal. How is it supposed to do that when it can't even grab a monopoly in the video game industry?

          3) There are two camps that can act to stop Millenium: one is Godzilla's beloved Macs, the other is the group of open source OSes lead by Linux. Of course, they would have to avoid catching Mono, which leads to a terminal case of Millenium.

          4) When have you known Microsoft not to bungle something someway or another? ;)

          "It'll soak up every last bit of data." Miasaka, Godzilla 2000 Millenium
          Mothra's 40th anniversary in America is in two days.
          She has graciously allowed Godzilla to share sig space because she believes this is important.
      • Re:I am stunned (Score:2, Informative)

        by DaBunny (56964)
        Oh My God! File-sharing software is going to use my computer resources to share files?!

        Look, many users (myself included) were pretty upset to find that Kazaa was installing a 3rd party software that would use my computers resources for their own purposes. But no one should be surprised that their computer (inclduing up to 10% of CPU power) will be used for the software's express purpose.

        And if you don't want your machine to function as a super-node, they say:
        If you do not want to serve as a SuperNode go to Tools->Options->Advanced and check Do not function as a SuperNode

    • Re:I am stunned (Score:3, Informative)

      by benjymous (69893)
      From what I understand, the altnet stuff comes (will come?) piggybacked on the "b3d projector" advert program that the KaZaA installer automatically installs for you (without prompting if this is ok). You can see it briefly at the end of the installer when it pops up its own installation window in the top left of the screen for about half a second.

      KaZaA lite [kazaalite.com] doesn't install this (but it'll still be there if you haven't fully purged an old version of KaZaA from your system. Get adaware [lavasoft.nu] for that)
    • "Consumers are the lifeblood of our company," she adds. "We will not do anything to hurt our relationship with them."

      They already did.

    • Re:I am stunned (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Common decency? For thieves? Why? Despite all the hue and cry about legitimate uses, the bulk of peer to peer filesharing is trading stolen files. Music, software, whatever.

      When you run with the pack, expect to be hunted...

      (No, I don't condone the spyware that Kazaa and/or Brilliant surrepticiously put on computers...however the whining about things like decency and so on when the original software's primary users are, in essence stealing copyrighted material, is just too ridiculous to ignore).
  • by Zocalo (252965) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:37AM (#3483373) Homepage
    Well, there's nothing to worry about then, is there? Given Microsoft's track record with "copy protection" and "product activation" technologies the patch will be widely available before the official launch date anyway. ;)
  • Interesting quote... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GnomeKing (564248) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:39AM (#3483377)
    During the KaZaA client update, users will be able to opt out of the Altnet service, the spokesperson says

    So maybe they did listen to everyone after all? I await to see what "warnings" are given and how easy the opt out is...

    Thinking of this - I have a question
    How does altnet know what is "unused" in bandwidth terms?
    as far as I was aware there was no prioritising in the windows tcp/ip stack where by one application does not get any bandwidth while others wish to use it
    That would imply to me that they will just use ANY bandwidth they can - not just "un-used bandwidth"...
    • by upside (574799)
      The best targets for Altnet are those corporate PCs left on overnight to suck in those MP3s etc. On that kind of bandwith you won't notice. They prolly couldn't care less about 56kers, though they are the ones that suffer.

      Then again, perhaps it only activates when there are no other applications using the network.

      XP has QoS enabled by default, though, right? It can be installed on w2k too.
      • I'd imagine the worst hit will be those who pay per the megabyte for their bandwidth. I'm guessing that the altnet client will install itself to run in the background all the time even when KaZaA isn't open, meaning if someone leaves their PC on all the time, without KaZaA running, they may suddenly be faced with a big bandwidth bill thanks to altnet using all of their "free" bandwidth
        • Not to bash the stupid people of the world, but if you're paying for bandwidth by the mb, wouldn't you be best off not using kazaa in the first place? I'm not sure what the rates are like but it seems that would be a rather frivolous use of by-the-byte bandwidth.
  • by sluggie (85265) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:47AM (#3483381)
    ... just go ahead, get kazaalite (http://www.kazaalite.com/) and start sharing.

    I don't care in which way they will copyright their material.
    Let's just enjoy it as long as it lasts, we can move over to gnutella anytime we want. Since kazaa, etc are aware of this fact they will go on like they do now (not suing kazaalite) as long as possible...

    To cut a long story short: Don't freak out when someone points out a problem we already have the solution for.

    • You are right, when Morpheus was excluded, all Fast-trek users lost out because of the reduction of d/l material and sources.
    • If you check the legal bases for copyright, you will see that it is granted by the public representatives as a trade-off for the "trouble" of publishing the works.

      Never forget that IT IS A GRANT type of right and, that the work is in the public domain after the grant elapse.

      If the work is published in a crypted form (whatever the mean), they are forfeiting the "public domain" part of the grant and thrus are forbiding it.

      Of course, they aren't strictly forbiden to crypt the content. BUT THEY ARE OBLIGED to publish the algoritms and the keys of it before it is published (as one can't assume that the publishers will survive until the end of the grant to "free" the content to the public domain).

      Cheers...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    considering the fact that most people use kazaa to illegally download music, which does (!) harm musicians, using your spare CPU-cycles and bandwidth to pay these guys isn't even that ridiculous.
    • by drsoran (979) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @07:07AM (#3483423)
      considering the fact that most people use kazaa to illegally download music, which does (!) harm musicians, using your spare CPU-cycles and bandwidth to pay these guys isn't even that ridiculous.

      Thinking that ANY of the money raised through these trojans will go into the hands of musicians is ridiculous thinking on your part. It will either go to bolster "Brilliant's" income or go into the RIAA anti-piracy coffers. The day people turn over and decide that letting someone install a trojan onto their system in return for using a supposedly legitimate piece of software is the day we should just pull the plug. The Internet is broken. Kick the commercial noobs off.
      • Yep, I see it as you can give $1000 to man running the homeless shelter, or you can give $10 to each person there. The guy running the place will tell you he knows how to make better use of it, but it probably won't benefit those who need it as much as giving it to them directly did. I'd much rather pay the artist directly than someone else. You would think that artists wouldn't have to rely so much on labels and whatnot to get publicized so well today.
    • Harm? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kindaian (577374)
      File sharing doens't mandatorially damages the authors nor anyone.
      Don't mix correlation with causation please. I'm as most tired of having that kind of "trues" thrown at my ears.
      And you can't prove that all downloads from kazaa are illegal (i could download a music of which i own the cd. under the fair use and format shift resolutions, it is legal for me to do it - at least in US - other countries may have legislative environments to the contrary).
      I'm perfectly aware that the majority of the kazaa users use it illegally, but there are legal uses of it as well, they aren't just the "mainstream"
      On the other hand, a download isn't mandatory to mean a cd that isn't brougt (even if some would like to make that relation).
      Most people will use kazaa to download music to preview it before buying it. It more pratical then go to the disco and preview the cd there. There are more offer for preview.
      Those that like the music and that can aford it, will eventually start to buy the new found authors music (another falacy is that everyone that downloads music can afford it and thrus represents a forfeit cd sell).
      But i digress... Mayhappen some should go to economic universities and study macro-economy... Mayhappen they start to understand what a market is!

      Cheers...

      P.S.- And... what on the hell has spyware to do with "harm musicians"?
    • My spare cpu cycles and bandwidth are being used to cure cancer [intel.com], which I think is a slightly better use of it than for some dipshit's piggyback trojan.
      • Or, on the cynical view, your spare CPU cycles are being used by some other faceless corporation to make money in a different field (i.e., medical research). Given that this is the field I work in, I feel comforable in asserting that "curing cancer" is the last thing on the pharmco investors' Borg-like mind. Finding new treatments... that's where the money is. Find the cure and the revenue stream dries up. This is the problem with research now being undertaken mostly by those with a stake in seeing that it never fully succeeds.

        Anyway, I've drifted way offtopic here with my personal biases. The long story short part is that you shouldn't assume any more pure motive on the part of the people sucking your spare bandwidth "to cure cancer" than the people parasitically draining Kazaa users' bandwidth "to make money." The latter may just be more honest.

  • Interesting... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmanske (312125) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:51AM (#3483388) Homepage
    A few weeks after Altnet's launch, Brilliant plans to introduce an Altnet "rewards program," enticing customers to swap PC bandwidth and hard drive space for points that can be redeemed by e-merchant partners, Bermeister says. If you agree to let Altnet's partners download to your hard drive multimedia-rich advertisements for later playback, you can earn points redeemable at e-merchants toward purchases.

    I found this interesting, although not surprising... If companies such as Brilliant and Sharman Networks were to release 'clean' versions of their products, and they were totally upfront in an easy to read EULA (who reads those anyway right?), would you use it? Would you swap bandwidth and disk for the privilege?

    Furthermore, would the 'average' person? Spyware, what's that? etc...

    • Sure, I would....but I'm just dying with curiousity to see if I can replace the files/ads they send me with my own versions, so I'm probably not the type of person they want "volunteering."
      • Like the next comment says, a lot of their userbase generally know but don't care about the spyware.

        They're still getting their content, and some of them couldn't care less.

    • Redeemable "points" have been used by conventional marketers in the past, as an inducement to use whatever. In some cases, like airline frequent flyer miles, they work out well for the consumer. In other cases (I've personally seen this several times with long distance "points"), the points miraculously disappear from the system every time you get enough to redeem them against merchandise. Or the partnership with the retailer periodically dissolves so the points become worthless.

      So don't count on redeemable "points" as being worth a red cent.

      • Interesting antecdote that I can't really attribute to anyone in particular:

        When the Airmailes company in Canada decided to go public they almost pulled out of the deal at the last minute. Why? They were afraid that when the public was able to see how many "Miles" they wrote off after expiration and how much money it made them there would be a huge backlash.

        Airmiles sin't just good marketing, it's a freakin goldmine.

        • Yep, I don't doubt it. Let 'em buy lots of copies of mille bourne ;)

          I know 3rd party flyer miles in the U.S. are often not worth much due to short expirations. Better chance to use them with those that apply to airlines like Alaska or Delta, who are a bit more customer-service oriented.

          Personally I consider "points" valueless, because they never seem to be redeemable for anything I'd want, or the shipping charge is more than the item is worth.

  • Why shouldn't they? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mattygfunk (517948) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:54AM (#3483392) Homepage
    The way I see it their userbase, which is growing at a huge rate, generally know that they have spyware and dont care. Sure now there is two of the spyware programs big deal. They were already giving that information to one, no big deal from the users POV.

    They won't realise that their bandwidth and disk space is eaten away slightly, they wont care when they do cos they're still getting free music. It is far too hard for the average user to install a new sharing program let alone find the name and site of one. "It's all too hard and this program works and im confortable with it."


    Anyway if they are using Microsoft's digital rights management encryption technology then I look forward to having a look at what they send.

  • by kubrick (27291) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @06:59AM (#3483407)
    'Altnet's seeded software [will be] awakened some time in May'

    Skynet 5 years late? :)

    Once we have networks acting independently of the owners of the machines, what's to stop someone putting in a bit of self-preservation and random activity into the distributed processes...???

  • by Dynamoo (527749)
    Just shows how low some people will go to try an get a profit. Just lowlife scum basically.

    Sounds like another job for AdAware! [ad-aware.net]

  • by javilon (99157) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @07:06AM (#3483421) Homepage
    It looks like all the rats are getting together... Only senator Hollings is missing.
  • Within weeks, KaZaA users will see the premiere of ads offering Altnet audio and video content for sale. The selection will appear alongside -- but distinguishable from -- KaZaA content on the KaZaA Media Desktop

    I don't think this is a bad idea at all.

    If there were a way to discern reliable, high-bandwidth servers with complete files from Joe's Dorm computer, that would be a big plus.

    It would be nice to have cheap (read: free) and possibly unreliable sources for experimenting and sampling things, and also in the same interface, be able download (and even pay! I would!) a batch of songs by a particular artist quickly and reliably.

    I don't use Kazaa. AudioGalaxy doesn't seem to work for me on RH7. Gnutella is the only P2P I've used recently, and it can be frustrating when you want *this* song right *now* and you can't connect to a hit.

    I can tell you I'd happily pay 25-50 cents a song for the LOTR soundtrack. Prolly the Spider-Man soundtrack, although I haven't heard it yet, but it is by Danny Elfman. I'd have to hear a few tracks first.

    $5 for a modern CD is wonderful. $18 for a modern CD is a joke -- especially paying $18 for a disc that only has two or three good songs.

    Other things I'd pay (and have, and will) for:
    Flesh Field [inception-records.com]
    Faith And The Muse [mercyground.com]
    KMFDM

    I'm actually going to buy a Flesh Field disc this weekend. I'm paying cold,hard Visa for a a disc. I discovered Flesh Field while listening to Digital Gunfire [digitalgunfire.com]. Great music to code do. (A fan plug. I don't know them.)

    Yes, that's me. I use Gnutella, I listen to Internet Radio, and I buy music.
    • Visa's not cold and hard, it's warm and comforting. It's the *bill* that's cold and hard. At least that's how it works with my mastercard. Oh yeah, and the Spiderman score by Danny Elfman is friggin' amazing, but hey, so's everything else of his.
      How many times have we heard that same sentiment, that people would readily pay 25-50 cents (or more) per track for music they liked, so long as they didn't get stuck with a disc full of absolute garbage? Why is it then the suits only half listen, and give us shitty swapping services (pressplay, the new napster, and so on) with "high quality" 128 kbit fucking encoded trash? Of *course* your service will fail when you only offer top 40 at low bitrates. Either these people are really really stupid, or they're really really smart - I just can't figure out which.

  • Have an encrypted file that you need decrypted? Not a problem at all... hack into altnet and have 10 million unsuspecting users brute force the password for you! woo hoo! :-)

    Have a website that you just abhor? Again, not a problem... piggypack a little DDOS app into altnet and watch the fun. And you thought the slashdot effect was bad!!

    I seriously distrust the security for altnet. They claim its 100% secure, but I'm not buying it. Hell, microsoft says their products are secure!
  • gift.sourceforge.net (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @07:37AM (#3483480)
    If you haven't already checked out giFT check it out. It is an open source fast track network implmentation. It is no longer able to connect to the Kazaa network because they changed their protocol to come encrypted stuff, but it still rocks.

    Yes it is still under heavy development, and last I checked you still had to grab the code out of CVS.

    Their network needs a lot of users to test the software etc... go head and grab that source!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @07:41AM (#3483491)
    "Consumers have nothing to fear," says Brilliant Digital's Bermeister.


    Using The Fish [altavista.com] I was able to find two separate translations:



    one: "All your base are belong to us!"
    two: "Resistance is futile!"

    This means something, I just know it.

  • by Bakajin (323365) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @07:42AM (#3483494) Homepage Journal
    The only thing, and by only, I don't mean it is not a biggie. In fact it is huge! But the only thing they did wrong in my opinion is not be up front with people. Spy-ware, ad-ware, and whatever you want to call this (bandwith-ware?) are all resonable ways for free software to make money IFF they are completely and clearly up front about how, what, why, and when they are doing. Not just at the beginning, but for as long as they are doing it. I have no problem with that.
  • remember when you thought the idea of *them* being able to track your every purchase was some Orwellian nightmare that should never see the light of day? Skip forward to 2002, and you will see the majority of society blithely going about their day to day business, blissfully unaware of the implications of cash and credit cards being the tools that map -you- onto any given barcode. Permanent records of your habits and tastes are steadily being built up. Perhaps the spyware people ought to take a look at how history has made the formerly horrific into a tranquil reality.
  • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @07:47AM (#3483506) Homepage

    I don't understand this at all. When a university student launches a program out into the net, and that program sneaks onto your machine and mucks with your registry and steals your CPU cycles, it's a "virus." The kid is labeled a hacker and is arrested. And now, thanks to 9/11, the kid has the additional dubious classification of a "terrorist."

    However, if this EXACT SAME THING is done by a corporation, in the name of profit, it is viewed completely differently! Why? What's the difference? It's a VIRUS! Software forces itself onto your machine and changes things without your permission. That's a virus. That's illegal. Why are we tolerating it???

    • Simply put, they are doing this because you gave them permission to do so when you clicked on 'Finish' without reading the EULA.

      The 'hacker' who hacks into machines and destroys things etc. did NOT receive permission from the owner.

      Of course, noone reads EULAs these days and that is what they took advantage of. Now, who's fault is that? It's not theirs. Perhaps this will go a little towards waking people up a little.

      - Oisin
    • by Spacelord (27899) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @08:05AM (#3483541)
      Well ... it is not a *Russian* company ;)
    • "When a university student launches a program out into the net, and that program sneaks onto your machine and mucks with your registry and steals your CPU cycles, it's a "virus.""

      That's a nice comparison, but I suspect that you may not have read the article too closely. From the article:

      "During the KaZaA client update, users will be able to opt out of the Altnet service, the spokesperson says. The company did not say this previously."

      Now we don't know this will turn out to be a full disclosure deal ("Would you like to join the new Altnet service where WE SEND YOU TARGETED ADS AND USE YOUR SPARE CPU CYCLES TO FIND AN ANTHRAX CURE?") or just a cryptic message ("Join Altnet service?"). Whether or not they're doing something questionable all depends on just how exactly they wind up going about it. And unfortunately, no one seems to have exact details on what the Altnet launch will look like.

    • What's the difference? It's a VIRUS!

      It's a virus with a cleverly-worded EULA that several million people clicked "I Agree" on.

      Whoops, now it's up to us to invalidate the EULA in court. I'd be RIGHT THERE helping you, but since 1) I'm too poor to pay for an attorney, and 2) I already uninstalled Brilliant's software with AdAware... I think I'll just download some more Metallica videos on KaZaa!!

  • So which is worse? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by night_flyer (453866) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @08:11AM (#3483563) Homepage
    The RIAAs claim that people are stealing music...
    OR
    Another company making a profit off of this supposed theft?
  • by musesoft (238327) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @08:15AM (#3483571)
    Most worrisome part of the article: Nikki Hemming, chief executive of Sharman Networks, advocates a copyright tax on all ISPs. So all ISP users will be forced to pay the RIAA!


    And on the copying and fair use front, Hemming is lobbying Congress for an Intellectual Property Use Fee to settle the quandary of responsibility for distributing copyrighted material. The proposal calls for charging ISPs a fee to compensate copyright holders.

    The IPUF would be a "universal levy that would be applied to everyone in the value chain that benefited from the content available" on the KaZaA network, Hemming says.

    In an open letter to Congress, Sharman Networks writes:

    "We suggest that it is time for Congress to step in and halt the 'whack-a-mole' litigation excesses of the music and movie industries through new legislative initiatives that compel content availability, while establishing a compensation scheme that requires a contribution from all the many industry sectors beyond P2P [peer-to-peer] software that benefit from content availability."
    • If we're going to have to pay content providers through ISP taxes (presumably with no way to determine which content is actually the most popular), why don't we just eliminate all pretense and give the money to public television/radio instead. If we must have socialist entertainment, then give us the real thing.
      • I'm not sure that even the current courts would be willing to make music distribution a government monopoly. I do expect, however, that there will eventually be a "bit-tax" of some variety. I don't know who the ostensible beneficiary would be, but based on experience the real beneficiary would be those who control the collection of the tax.

        I can imagine desireable scenarios where the government controls the distribution of news. But then I have a quite creative immagination. What I can't make myself do is believe in any of them. Any additional centrallized control under any pretext would to the detriment of the majority of people. And taxes not only subsidize control, they are a control.

        That said, the only benefit of having the money extorted for the "music companies" over having the government do it is that an oligarcy is more disorganized than a dictatorship. I see no other benefit at all.
        (I.e.: The music companies is composed of a number of relatively independant companies, where the government is more unitary.)

        OTOH, the only benefit that this would yield is that there might be more variety in the "music" that they provide. Possibly. The government might be more unitary, and only provide, e.g., Muzak. (Something that wouldn't offend anyone, or get anyone too excited ... except about things that they wanted people to be excited about.)

        If I felt that I could trust the government to act in the best interests of the country, then I might even support this. One could make an analogy between music and the endocrine system. Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be the case. The government seems to act more as a partially adapted parasite than as a full symbiote. It doesn't usually provoke a strong immune response, even though its actions sometimes indicates that one would be appropriate. (OTOH, a severe fever and inflamation is quite uncomfortable, and can even be fatal, so perhaps a partially suppressed immune response is more appropriate.)

        • OTOH, the only benefit that this would yield is that there might be more variety in the "music" that they provide. Possibly. The government might be more unitary, and only provide, e.g., Muzak. (Something that wouldn't offend anyone, or get anyone too excited ... except about things that they wanted people to be excited about.)

          Perhaps, but comparing the offerings of governmental PBS/NPR to corporate MPAA/RIAA, the opposite would seem to be the case. Not that I really give my attention to any of those acronyms very often anymore...

    • I caught that too - for me THAT is the topic that should have made the headline. Thats insane! Make everybody pay so some people can download copyrighted music? Please!

      The precident that would set is staggering - imagine Microsoft trying to asses a 'piracy' fee to ISPs to account for people who download pirated software?

      This little tidbit needs some SERIOUS attention now instead of waiting for the next Hollings type moron to pick it up and write a bill.

      It all comes down to this - if you're doing somethign illegal - you shoudl go to jail - but stop treating the rest of us like criminals because you think we might do something wrong.

  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @08:27AM (#3483602) Journal
    Read the bleepin' article. Neatly buried in the middle, you'll find this gem:
    And on the copying and fair use front, Hemming is lobbying Congress for an Intellectual Property Use Fee to settle the quandary of responsibility for distributing copyrighted material. The proposal calls for charging ISPs a fee to compensate copyright holders.
    Notice that this says "copyright holder" and not "creative artists"
    • by Erasmus Darwin (183180) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @09:23AM (#3483897)
      "Notice that this says "copyright holder" and not "creative artists""

      You flagged the correct paragraph, but I believe you flagged it for the wrong reason. The paragraph worries me because it's potentially a tax on all ISP usage, whether the person is using it to host a small website, SSH to a Unix box for multiplayer nethacking, play legally purchased copies of online videogames, or engage in P2P filesharing.

      Furthermore, determining who's copyrighted material is being shared will be iffy at best: If we go off commercial sales then effectively protected works (such as online videogames require unique CD keys) would receive a disproportionately higher share of piracy compensation. If we go off of what's being shared then copyright holders would have an incentive to pretend to illegally share their own copyrighted works.

      As to why I believe you reason (lack of compensation for creative artists) isn't relevant: The entire point of laws to protect intellectual property is to protect the person who holds the rights to that work. By default, that would be the person who created the work. However, sometimes the creator is unable to pursue the commercial use of the work. In this case, the creator can sell his ownership of the absolute rights of the work to a new party. Once he's done so, he's no longer a part of the discussion -- it's not the creator's work anymore.

      Now in the case of the recording industry, the artists are "selling" their works in exchange for receiving royalties based on the future sales of that work. They probably have other rights relating to the work that they reserve. This entire arrangement is managed by the infamous "recording contract". However, if you have a problem with recording contracts screwing over the creative artists, the place to address would be some sort of anti-trust or anti-monopoly suit or legislation, not piracy compensation legislation.

      • by TRACK-YOUR-POSITION (553878) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @10:00AM (#3484137)
        Let me start out by saying that I despise the idea of the government forcing me to pay for content I may or may not consume and in fact wish no one else consumed, at least on a scale large enough to keep the RIAA afloat (a few pennies to PBS, NPR, NEA, eh...I don't like it, but it's not enough money to complain about.)

        But disregarding that opinion for a bit, I must still oppose paying copywright holders instead of creators.

        However, sometimes the creator is unable to pursue the commercial use of the work. In this case, the creator can sell his ownership of the absolute rights of the work to a new party.

        Yes, but we must ask ourselves WHY this is the case. It used to be because in individuals weren't capable of distributing their music to the masses for sale. With the internet, this is no longer the case--anyone can put their mp3s on the internet. However, individuals have little ability to make a consumers receiving the mp3 conditional on their paying--so they still must sell their rights to the recording industry.

        But if this potential legislation passes, it is an admision by the RIAA that it is no longer capable of providing this service on it's own! It can't stop consumers from getting songs without paying, it needs the government to bail it out. So it isn't needed to help distribute music, and it's no longer capable of restricting the distribution of music. Therefore the Recording Industry serves no purpose whatsoever, and the faster their employees are on the streets looking for jobs that actually accomplish something, the more productive our economy will become. However, if this pointless industry is kept alive by governmental fiat, like such piracy compensation legislation, it will be a great waste and a greater injustice.

        In other words, because the ONLY remaining purpose of the RIAA members existance is to make people pay artists, the screwing over of artists MUST be addressed in piracy compensation legislation.

        Of course, this all assumes that procedes to the copywright holders will be based on the number of times their song is downloaded--more likely, the government will just say "well, AOL Time Warner made X dollars before napster from record sales, so we can just assume they would make X inflation-adjusted dollars today if it were not for piracy". Thus, whether or not AOLTW actually produces more likable music, they still get paid, and THEN we'll see how much we can really screw over those artists!

        This prospect offends me not merely because it is corporate welfare, but because it gives control of Art itself to an unelected, unappointed few.

        So, both of you are right. The sentence he flagged was pretty evil, but everything else in the idea sucks too.

        • "In other words, because the ONLY remaining purpose of the RIAA members existance is to make people pay artists, the screwing over of artists MUST be addressed in piracy compensation legislation."

          You have a point, but I think you're over-valuing the Internet's influence and disregarding some of the other contributions of RIAA members. There's more to distributing and promoting music than just throwing a copy up on KaZaA. In an ideal world, just making the music available would be enough, but in an ideal world, we wouldn't be worrying about this issue, either. Let's also not forget that there are still people interested in buying CDs out of stores. It takes work to get a retail item on store shelves. That's any retail item -- even something completely unrelated to intellectual property.

          There's also the issue of managing the rights to use the song in other contexts. Radio broadcast rights (at least until the year 2055, when we get complete, flat-rate, cheap wireless Internet coverage and car-based streaming mp3 players), movie rights, and so on all require contracts and negotiation. While negotiating with each individual artist for the movies rights might be okay (since it's just a dozen or so songs), negotiating the radio rights would be a killer.

          Next we've got the investment angle. RIAA members are the ones who front all that money to cover the expenses that Courtney Love complains about in her oft-cited piece. Yes, they demand an obscene amount of money back in return, but they are the ones taking the initial financial risk.

          Anyway, how about implementing the copyright holder protection in such a way as to cover even small-scale copyright holders? If we assume that Internet distribution is a valid model, then that would allow a creative artist to continue to act as the copyright holder for his/her own body of work. That person would (hopefully) receive a fair cut of the pie based on his/her popularity.

          At the same time, I'd want a dual effort to reform the music industry both at the RIAA member level and the radio level. Cut out price fixing. Cut out contracts that unfairly leverage a monopolistic status in order to reduce the creative artist's royalties. Cut out payola (or at least regulate it), where the RIAA members have to give money to the radio stations to get air time.

          The payola issue would probably be the best starting point. It greatly cuts down on smaller artists, it's already illegal (I believe), and radio stations are open to regulation because they've been granted something of a monopoly by the government (since radio bandwidth is inherently limited).

  • by galaga79 (307346) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @08:27AM (#3483603) Homepage
    At first, Altnet will market video and audio clips. Brilliant is negotiating with music labels and movie studios to market their material as well. The files will be copy-protected in some way, using Microsoft's digital rights management encryption technology. Restrictions could vary with the type of file or its source; a record label may let you copy a file once (onto a portable player, for example), or play it only a certain number of times.

    It's good to see that record labels have finally come to their senses and are starting to use the Internet as a marketting tool. An example of this is how silverchair released their single 'The Greatest View' as a digital download to great success [theage.com.au]. However it is a pity that such downloads usually have some form of DRM like they stop playing after a certain date, but I guess some record labels aren't prepared to hand out freebies even if it means potentially increasing sales through exposure. On the otherhand other labels, usually the smaller/independent labels are quite happy to hand out free tracks with no constraints at sites like Epitonic [epitonic.com]

    Speaking of Microsoft's digital rights management encryption technology, I wonder if Microsoft have released a patch for it since it was cracked last October [cnn.com]
  • Bait and Switch (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mulletproof (513805)
    How many times have we seen this happen? This tactic is so old it's pathetic-- Provide your service for free then try and sell it for a buck when you think you have enough users. And as old as it, they never seem to realize that it never fails to alinate their user base to no end. And I may have missed something, but since when was Kazaa's service up to the quality of something you'd pay for?
  • by Masem (1171)
    Giving up some of a consumer's hard drive and CPU and bandwidth for points that will be accepted by e-commerce places for audio and video files?

    I'm sure the point system will go over quite well in dot.com land *cough*flooz*cough*...

  • Microsoft DRM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hard_Code (49548) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @08:54AM (#3483748)
    This wouldn't happen to be the DRM that has already been broken [com.com]?
  • Has anyone figured out the TCP/IP specifics of the spyware? I'd like to figure out if I can block the spyware and not Kazaa from my campus network.
  • I've been dedicating my cycles voluntarily to UD for many months now. It's a great cause and they seem like a good and upstanding group. If they end up partnering with these bozos and allowing their research to be turned into an involuntary virus, I'll certainly pull my machines from the pool. It's important work that they do, but there are others to choose from.
  • Too bad they keep trying to sell the stuff that is incompatible with my hardware. If it won't work with my in-dash MP3 player, my RIO and my CD burner, then you can't sell it to me.
  • It occurs to me that many users could get in trouble with their ISPs for using Altnet's software. Your typical home account, or any educational network, is likely to have terms of service prohibiting the use of their network for commercial purposes. Since Altnet is sharing commercial content off of your computer, will we see users being kicked off?

    (This does give ISPs a valid reason to block Altnet at their routers for such customers, though. Tempting!)

  • Privacy Issues? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by toupsie (88295) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @09:48AM (#3484066) Homepage
    What is to stop Kazaa and Brilliant Digital from using their software to scan the music & movie files on your hard drive, develop a signature and transfer that back to the RIAA and MPAA? Could Kazaa be a trojan horse company set up by music companies to spy on the p2p habits of music lovers? If they now claim that using the bathroom during a commercial break is a technical violation of the copyright laws, this doesn't seem to far fetched.
  • Matt Oppenheim, RIAA senior vice president of business and legal affairs.

    "If I rob a bank, the fact that I haven't been arrested yet doesn't mean I haven't done something wrong," Oppenheim says. "Sharman Networks should take no comfort in the fact they haven't been sued yet."

    Perhaps a better analogy would be...

    Person A works in a bank. Person B is a friend of person A and says "Can you give me some of the money from your bank". Person A says "sure, come on over". So person B drives to the bank and person A gives him some cash from the vault.
    The FBI decides that a theft has taken place and imprisons the Ford motor company for making the vehicle used by person B to drive to the bank.

  • by TDScott (260197) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @10:55AM (#3484445)
    Just a quick note - as I always do in these topics - I've written an under-600-word guide to the problem and how to fix it [thomasscott.net], designed for the uninitiated.

    Pointing people there could save hours of explanation...

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @01:00PM (#3485324) Homepage
    If you find this on a corporate system, sue Brilliant Digital under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, for "exceeding authorized access". If they claim their access is "authorized", demand to see a document signed by an officer of the company. Some random employee clicking on a dialog box isn't enough. Only someone with authority to bind the company can authorize access. It's a straight "hacking" case.

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