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Piracy The Internet

How Proxied Torrents Could End ISP Subpoenas 307

Posted by samzenpus
from the never-again dept.
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes "With the announcement of Verizon's "six strikes plan" for movie pirates (which includes reporting users to the RIAA and MPAA), and content companies continuing to sue users en masse for peer-to-peer downloads, I think it's inevitable that we'll see the rise of p2p software that proxifies your downloads through other users. In this model, you would not only download content from other users, but you also use other users' machines as anonymizing proxies for the downloads, which would make it impossible for third parties to identify the source or destination of the file transfer. This would hopefully put an end to the era of movie studios subpoenaing ISPs for the identities of end users and taking those users to court." Read below for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

Now, I'm not advocating the creation of software that enables piracy. And I don't mean that in a nudge-wink kind of a way, I'm serious: I think people should reward movie studios for making content that they like, if only because that means studios will make more of that type of content. For my last cross-country flight I paid an honest-to-God four dollars to download a movie from Amazon Unbox to watch on the plane, even though I fondly like to think of myself as smart enough that I could have figured out how to find and download the movie for free. (Well, not all that smart; the movie was Lockout.)

However, the idea of users anonymizing each others' downloads is so elementary, that I literally mean it's inevitable that we will see the rise of such software. Whether I'm in favor of it or not, it's going to happen. In fact, under certain assumptions, there's really only one logical direction that it can evolve in.

First, some background. Under the current BitTorrent protocol -- with no built-in support for anonymization -- some server S makes a large file available for download. When the first downloader, say user D1, requests a copy of the file, they have to begin the process of downloading it from S. But when the next downloader, say user D2, requests a copy of the same file while user D1 is still downloading, the BitTorrent server S tells D2 to start downloading the file from D1 instead of from S directly. (D1 is required at this point to share out the file for download, in order to earn enough "credits" to continue downloading from S.) Subsequent downloaders are similarly told to download from other downloaders instead of from the original server S. In this way, the server S avoids incurring massive bandwidth charges (since S only actually served the file one time), and each user on average only has to share out the file once in return for downloading it themselves.

Note that this still means that in order to initiate the download, the server S has to serve out the whole file at least once, to the first downloader -- and if the file is being distributed without the copyright owner's permission, then the operators of server S can be taken to court. This legal pressure was the reason that the Pirate Bay switched from serving BitTorrent files to serving magnet links, which enable users to download content purely from each other, without the Pirate Bay ever actually serving the content themselves. But with both BitTorrent and magnet links, users who are downloading content from other users, can see those other users' IP addresses -- and they know that those other users are serving the content from files stored on their own hard drives. This means that if you're the copyright owner of that content, you can subpoena the identities of the users behind those IP addresses, and taken them to court for unauthorized possession and distribution of copyrighted material.

So what would a protocol look like with built-in support for anonymization? In my first draft of an idea, I thought that each download could take place using one intermediate user as a proxy, so that instead of server S telling D2 to download from D1, the server would tell D2 to use download D3 as a proxy, and tell D3 to proxy the connection from D1. (As with BitTorrent, the downloader D3 would be required to allow their machine to be used as a proxy, in order to earn credits to continue with their own download.) So D1 would not be able to see the IP address of user D2 downloading from them, and D2 would not be able to see the IP address of user D1 that they were downloading from. Both of them would be able to see the IP address of user D3 which is acting as the proxy between them, but as long as it's not against the law to simply proxy a connection for someone else, that would not be grounds to subpoena the user D3's identity. And D3 would be able to see the IP address of D1 and D2, but if the D1 and D2 are communicating using a shared encryption key, then D3 would have no idea what content is flowing between D1 and D2, even as it proxies the connection between them. So even if one of D1, D2 or D3 were an "adversary" (i.e. a copyright holder intent on suing illegal file sharers), none of the three would be able to see the IP address of another user that they knew was either downloading particular content, or serving it out.

Of course you could also argue that if D3 is among the users that server S is making available to others as an anonymizing proxy, then that constitutes proof that D3 must be downloading something else from S (otherwise, D3 wouldn't need to earn credits by acting as an anonymizing proxy), and if either D1 or D2 is an adversary, they can see D3's IP address and reason that D3 must be guilty of some copyright violation. Similarly, if D3 is the adversary, they can see D1 and D2's IP addresses and reason that both of them are probably guilty of some copyright infraction, even if D3 can't actually see what they're trading. Basically, anybody could be considered "guilty by association" simply by virtue of being in the community of users being coordinated by server S. But (1) that accusation could be deflected if some of the files being served by S were in fact legal and being distributed with the copyright holder's permission; and (2) in any case, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires you to claim that your specific copyrighted content is being distributed by a user, before you can unmask that user's identity; it's not enough to claim that the user is part of a network that distributes "some" copyrighted content illegally. D3 may be proxying a connection between D1 and D2 in order to earn credits so that D3 can download some content for themselves, but even though D1 and D2 can both see D3's IP address, there's no way for them to know what D3 could be downloading.

Unfortunately, this three-user-chain idea is not secure, because an adversary could still create a large number of users co-ordinated through server S, and sooner or later, a chain would arise where both the proxy and the downloader controlled by the adversary, and at that point, they would know the IP address of the user serving out the copyrighted content. In other words, eventually you'll get a situation where D2 is downloading content from D1 by going through proxy D3 -- but where D2 and D3 are both controlled by the adversary. So D2 knows the content that's being downloaded via D3, and D3 knows the IP address of D1 that's actually serving out the content -- at which point they can subpoena the identity of user D1, and sue them.

So consider this idea instead: When user D1 sends a request to server S to download a file, server S gives them the IP address of another user, D2, from which they can download the file. Now, 40% of the time, user D2 actually does have the file on their hard drive and is serving it to user D1, with no proxying. The other 60% of the time, user D2 is told by S to proxy the connection from D1 and connect to a third user, D3. Now in 40% of these cases, D3 actually does have the file and is serving it out directly; the other 60% of the time, D3 is proxying the connection for yet another user, D4...

So you end up with chains of varying length, with longer chains having a progressively smaller probability of forming:

40% of chains will be of length 1 (one user downloads directly from another)
60% x 40% of chains (24%) will be of length 2
60% x 60% x 40% of chains (14.4%) will be of length 3
60% x 60% x 60% x 40% of chains (8.64%) will be of length 4 etc.

These proportions of course sum to 1, and a little math shows that the length of the average chain is 3.5 nodes. The number of downloads in a chain -- the connections between users -- is one less than the number of nodes in the chain, so this means that to complete one download, the content will have to be transferred an average of 2.5 times -- compared to being transferred only once, when one user downloads from another directly. In order to ensure that users contribute enough to the system as they take from it, that means that in order to download a file, users would be required to provide enough "proxying" to support the equivalent of 2.5 full downloads of that same file.

These chains have a useful property: any time you're downloading content "from" another user, there's only a 40% chance that user is serving content off of their own hard drive, and a 60% chance that they're proxying the connection from somewhere else (another node that may in turn be proxying the connection from yet another node, etc.). So even if the adversary controls three nodes D1, D2, and D3, and D1 is downloading from D2 who is downloading from D3 who is downloading from D4 (and D4 is not controlled by the adversary), from the adversary's point of view there's only a 40% chance that D4 is actually originating the content. This is always true no matter how many nodes in the chain the adversary controls -- in the end, if they want to nail someone for serving out copyrighted content, they have to download the content from some node that they don't control, and there will only be a 40% that user is actually serving the content from their hard drive.

And the 40% number was deliberately chosen in order to weaken the adversary's legal grounds for subpoenaing the identity of the user they're downloading from -- even if they can show that they downloaded content from another user's IP address, it's more likely than not that the other user was not actually hosting the content. (Of course, there might be other details in context that render that probability calculation useless. For example, if the server S only links to one downloadable file, then all users coordinated by that server S are presumably downloading that same file, and anybody that server S connects you to, can be presumed guilty of downloading and sharing that file, 40% figure be damned.)

At this point you might also wonder: Why not just connect over a protocol like Tor, which provides secure anonymity for all transactions, and then use BitTorrent or some other file-sharing system on top of that? The answer is that Tor's connection is likely to be much slower, for at least two reasons. First, Tor servers are a limited resource, and the more people use them (especially for large file trading), the slower they are likely to become. (By contrast, in the peer-to-peer proxying model outlined above, every new downloader can also be made to act as a proxy for other users, so additional users don't slow down the system because they contribute as much as they take out of it.) Second, Tor always routes your connection through multiple servers to guarantee secure anonymity, which means it would be slower on average than the variable-length chains described above, where only about 20% of chains are of length 4 or more.

The key difference is that Tor provides true anonymity whereas the protocol above only provides plausible deniability. In high-risk settings where Tor is often used, it would not be acceptable if there were a 40% chance of your IP address being revealed to your adversary. But for file sharing, the 40% figure might be acceptable if it's just low enough to stave off a subpoena. This trade-off makes it possible to use shorter chains, resulting in faster downloads and less total bandwidth consumption.

You also already have the option today of using a VPN service to download files through an anonymous third-party connection, which renders the rest of these issues moot. But users have to jump through several hoops (and pay some money) to set this up as an option, which means that most users will not be using VPNs any time soon, leaving plenty of naive users for the RIAA and MPAA to go after. The use of peer-proxying links would mean that all users downloading through the system would be protected.

At the moment, the major impediment to a peer-proxying system like this would be that the chained downloads would still consume an average of 2.5 as much bandwidth as direct peer-to-peer downloads. Even with today's high-speed connections, this increase in inconvenience is great enough that some users might just prefer to use plain old BitTorrent to download files directly from peers, and run the (admittedly small) risk of getting in trouble. But as bandwidth speeds continue to grow literally exponentially, eventually the difference in inconvenience will be so small, that users would be foolish not to use proxified downloads if it provided free legal protection.

Note that the viability of this system does depend on the ISP's attitude towards it. In particular, if your ISP only goes after pirates because of legal pressure from content holders, then if the ISP's users are using this peer-proxying protocol instead of a direct download protocol like BitTorrent, then the ISP can quite truthfully claim that they don't have any hard evidence to disconnect any particular users or turn over their identities (because the ISP doesn't know which users are actually storing pirated files and which users are just acting as proxies). On the other hand, if your ISP sincerely wants to stop piracy because your ISP is also a content company (Comcast, for example), then they might also try to squelch the use of any protocol that enables piracy, even if they can't prove that any particular users are using it for anything illegal. Thus Comcast might try to slow the use of the peer-proxy protocol. But in that case they could be forced by Net Neutrality regulations to stop throttling it, in the same way that the FCC ordered Comcast to stop throttling BitTorrent.

As long as those conditions hold true -- content owners continue cracking down on file sharers, but proxying remains legal and bandwidth keeps getting cheaper, and ISPs are restrained from blocking the protocols themselves -- I think that p2p will have to evolve into something like the chained-download system described above, to provide plausible deniability to users, without resorting to the long chains (and subsequently slower downloads) provided by full-anonymity systems like Tor.

But again, I'm just saying it's inevitable, not that it's right. I actually do wish that people would pay the studios' prices for the movies that they watch; part of it is that I think most blockbusters are actually pretty good and deserve to make money. When you refuse to pay for movies, you're casting a vote against fun, big-budget movies that are made for the purpose of getting lots of people to come see them and enjoy them, and instead voting in favor of excruciatingly boring low-budget films that are made primarily so that the director could whine that the cheese-puff-snarfing American public wouldn't know great art if it bit them on their big bloated behind and subsequently didn't even buy enough tickets for the director to pay off the lien he took out on his Honda Civic to get the movie produced. Forget prosecution and civil suits; just make movie pirates sit through The Brown Bunny.

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How Proxied Torrents Could End ISP Subpoenas

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  • by Megor1 (621918) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:04PM (#42718141) Homepage
    Retro share: http://retroshare.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] friend to friend private open source file sharing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:07PM (#42718169)

    Why you're posting information about breaking the law. Are you not ashamed of yourself? Have you no dignity or self-respect?

    How would you like it if people stole all of your stuff and left you destitute, raw, and living in a VAN down by the RIVER!?!?!!!

    No - you wouldn't like it. So if you would quit it with the criminal thoughts and play by the rules like any other decent human being would you won't have to resign yourself to that fate.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:13PM (#42718231)
      I remember my first beer.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:38PM (#42718521)

      The RIAA and MPAA have declared war on their customers, despite having several surveys which show that downloaders do NOT affect Movies , that Downloaders buy MORE music. The RIAA and MPAA have been shown in several court cases they DO NOT support artisits, and are only concerned in lining their own pockets.
      Copy Right INFRIGMENT IS A CIVIL issue, and yet Kim DotCom of MEga Upload, Several music sites have all been taken down by USA government Agencies with the co-operation of by USA diplomatic pressure.
      And yet not a single one of these site take downs has resulted in a single court case. All previous web sites have been given back to the original owner of the web sites except Kim DotCom, who has still not been charged, or given any list of laws he has broken.
      As a USA Citizen I am ashamed of my government's corruption and usurption by corporate greed, and now the US courts won't even allow us citizens to use the Freedom of Information Act to determine whether I as a citizen am being watched or not.
      So yes I see this as a necessary and good protection from a government I FEAR will prosecute me, as it did Arron Aschwatz, and others like him who are serving sentances in Jail, or being extradited from the UK to the USA.
      I can proudly say that I have NOT voted for Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, or Barak Obama, or any other current incumbent, so as far as I am concerned this is NOTHING BUT GOOD.

    • by cgimusic (2788705) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:43PM (#42718583)
      I see the ridiculous attempt at equating piracy with theft has shown its ugly head again. This idea is bad for everyone any only serves to obstruct actual debate about the ethics behind intellectual property. People who post information about breaking the law (it isn't even the law everywhere by the way so don't just assume American laws should be enforced worldwide) are never going to be ashamed because the reason they post the information in the first place is because they disagree with the existence of the law. The law is not the law because it is morally right. The law is the law because of pressure from lobby groups.
    • How would you like it if people stole all of your stuff and left you destitute, raw, and living in a VAN down by the RIVER!?!?!!!

      SNL's lawyers would like a word with you when you're done here....

  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qbast (1265706) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:08PM (#42718175)
    If you are "proxying" connection, then you are downloading from user D1 and uploading to D2. It does not matter if you are not retaining that data, you are still copying stuff illegally. So in the end if content owners are unable to determine identity of actual downloaders, they can go for proxying users and hit them with exactly the same lawsuit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      AHAH! Then clearly the answer to the problem for content owners is to just sue all ISP's! Since, for end users to download copyrighted content, the ISP's infrastructure and many other ISP's infrastructure who merely route between must copy and reupload that data dozens of times for each packet! Why sue the users who requested the files? Since the lawsuits award damages based on the number of copies you make, sue the ISP's since they make dozens of copies for every copy a user tries to obtain!

    • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dgatwood (11270) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:22PM (#42718335) Journal

      U.S.C. Title 17 Section 512(a) [cornell.edu] would seem to apply:

      (a) Transitory Digital Network Communications.— A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider’s transmitting, routing, or providing connections for, material through a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, or by reason of the intermediate and transient storage of that material in the course of such transmitting, routing, or providing connections, if—

      (1) the transmission of the material was initiated by or at the direction of a person other than the service provider;

      (2) the transmission, routing, provision of connections, or storage is carried out through an automatic technical process without selection of the material by the service provider;

      (3) the service provider does not select the recipients of the material except as an automatic response to the request of another person;

      (4) no copy of the material made by the service provider in the course of such intermediate or transient storage is maintained on the system or network in a manner ordinarily accessible to anyone other than anticipated recipients, and no such copy is maintained on the system or network in a manner ordinarily accessible to such anticipated recipients for a longer period than is reasonably necessary for the transmission, routing, or provision of connections; and

      (5) the material is transmitted through the system or network without modification of its content.

      The only question is whether you as an individual can qualify as a "service provider", but if the EFF's interpretation is correct, anyone falling into the above exemption would inherently qualify.

      That said, I would not want to be the person who was being sued over using such a service. You'd presumably have to convince a judge that your purpose for using the software in the first place was something other than engaging in or facilitating copyright infringement.... Good luck with that.

      • by toejam13 (958243)

        That's what I wonder. If proxy services are not classified as service providers, the government could in theory come after you for conspiracy or possibly RICO statutes.

        If proxy services are classified as service providers, expect that laws regarding logging and auditing be ramped up. Every TCP connection you make will be saved and stored for a long time. Even if you bounce across seven proxies, the logs will eventually point back to the client. They could easily require little more than an administrativ

      • Safe harbor provisions were exactly what I wanted to mention, and also as you mentioned, you have to be acting in good faith which may be hard to prove. What business or technical need is satisfied for legitimate users of the technology by proxying through peers? Proxying is only more useful for obfuscation as it is less efficient for actual data transfer (limited now by relay speed as well, increased complexity with a need for intelligent proxy selection). Maybe for NAT bypass, but that's about it, and it
      • by icebike (68054)

        The gist of the story (quoted from the original post is this:...

        but as long as it's not against the law to simply proxy a connection for someone else, that would not be grounds to subpoena the user D3's identity.

        You ask "The only question is whether you as an individual can qualify as a "service provider".

        But I don't think its necessary to reach that conclusion in order to go after the proxy provider any more than it is necessary to equate a drug mule to a licensed Bus Line like Greyhound.

        The very act of proxy-ing could be found to be "aiding and abetting" which would probably be sufficient to get a warrant to search a proxy's server, even if there was

        • But I don't think its necessary to reach that conclusion in order to go after the proxy provider any more than it is necessary to equate a drug mule to a licensed Bus Line like Greyhound.

          The difference is more like people borrowing each others cars which just happened to contain some pot that belonged to someone else "I'm just transporting it for them, I didn't know what was in the box".

          Greyhound is a common carrier, your car is simply not.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        That said, I would not want to be the person who was being sued over using such a service. You'd presumably have to convince a judge that your purpose for using the software in the first place was something other than engaging in or facilitating copyright infringement.... Good luck with that.

        Retroshare, in addition to being a darknet file sharing app has encrypted equivalents of email, IM, IRC, web forums, status feeds, VOIP, and probably more that I'm forgetting.

      • by euxneks (516538)

        You'd presumably have to convince a judge that your purpose for using the software in the first place was something other than engaging in or facilitating copyright infringement.... Good luck with that.

        I would argue that unless they can prove what I've been sharing or downloading on the service was copyright infringement, I think they haven't got a case - it doesn't matter if the majority of users are downloading copyrighted items, what should matter is whether there is reasonable doubt that I was downloading copyrighted material. Essentially, "innocent until proven guilty".

    • If you have no control over the data being transported through you as often is the case with these darknet programs you are probably protected by the same DCMA provisions that protect the ISPs. That is, until they change the law. But then again you can make it in a way that never a complete file passes through you, and data never stays within your system.
      • you are probably protected by the same DCMA provisions that protect the ISPs

        No you aren't. The DMCA defines common carriers and end users aren't part of that definition.

    • by apcullen (2504324)
      I'm reasonably sure that transient copies such as you describe are not considered to be infringing.
    • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Informative)

      by dbet (1607261) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:26PM (#42718403)
      Not necessarily. Keep in mind they never go after "doanloaders", only uploaders. It's just that with torrents, they've made the argument that everyone in the swarm is an uploader.

      Also, if 2 people share a file, there are several nodes between them that also share that file, but no one is ever sued except the end user. With a place like Torrent tracker sites, they've made the argument that they of course know they're trading illegal files, that they have received take-down requests and ignored them. Even places like Youtube are expected to ban things on request.

      Now enter proxy torrenting. Who do they send a take-down request to? Even if they can pin an upload to a specific address, they need to show that you knew you were trading "The Avengers" which you almost certainly didn't.

      It's a legal mountain.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      It is not sane to assume that everyone is running a packet analyzer and inspecting all the traffic across their system.
      And without knowledge, you cannot complete the necessary elements to convict.

      Throw in some encryption for the proxied contents and the case against the proxy owner will never reach a jury.

    • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spikenerd (642677) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:27PM (#42718427)

      It does not matter if you are not retaining that data, you are still copying stuff illegally.

      By that logic, the owner of every router through which the data passed is responsible for the activities of the end users. I am not a lawyer, but I suspect intent may actually be relevant sometimes.

      • Intent plays into that. If I engage in an act (that in itself is not illegal) that I unknowingly facilitate an illegal act, I'm generally going to get off. However, if I engage in that same act and I know it will facilitate an illegal act, then I'm now generally accountable as well.
      • by houghi (78078)

        Let me simplify the law for you:
        If you are not a media company, you are guilty of piracy.
        If you are a large American company, you can just pay off and charge your customers more.
        In all other cases, you are screwed.

    • by eap (91469)

      If you are "proxying" connection, then you are downloading from user D1 and uploading to D2. It does not matter if you are not retaining that data, you are still copying stuff illegally. So in the end if content owners are unable to determine identity of actual downloaders, they can go for proxying users and hit them with exactly the same lawsuit.

      The FA says the traffic sent over the proxy is encrypted, so there would be no evidence it was copyrighted material.

      • by qbast (1265706)
        Traffic could be already encrypted between endpoints without inserting proxy in the middle, so it does not change anything.. Honestly, idea of adding a proxy is just weak attempt at finding legal loophole by splitting responsibility. Piratebay guys and Grokster (see MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd.) got convicted for providing file sharing tools that happened to be used also for copyright infringement. Do you seriously expect that "I don't know and I don't care what I was proxying" defense will work? J
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      Then CISCO is the largest Copyright infringement company on the planet and should be Stormed by the BATF right away.

    • If you are "proxying" connection, then you are downloading from user D1 and uploading to D2. It does not matter if you are not retaining that data, you are still copying stuff illegally. So in the end if content owners are unable to determine identity of actual downloaders, they can go for proxying users and hit them with exactly the same lawsuit.

      Copying data from storage into RAM
      ISPs (all along the pipe from your house to the server) copying data into buffers for routing
      Defragging your hard drive, copying data from one sector to another

      All of these examples are just as silly as what you claim is infringement.

  • by Derekloffin (741455) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:09PM (#42718181)
    Didn't they already try to sue the proxy user for something like this. You aren't off the hook legally just because you disguise who you are dealing with. All I see this doing is having them shifting from suing the download'er to the proxy'er.
    • There are technicalities on both sides, but the idea of using proxies does imply a certain amount of expected of privacy (similar to using a vpn) which can be enough in some countries to have these lawsuits dropped or thrown out.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Didn't they already try to sue the proxy user for something like this. You aren't off the hook legally just because you disguise who you are dealing with. All I see this doing is having them shifting from suing the download'er to the proxy'er.

      Plausible deniability. Probably not the best defense, because its still going to cost you lots of money to defend yourself.

      However if ALL Bittorrent clients had proxying built in and turned on by default, and if none of them provided any logging, then plausible deniability could probably be used as a defense. But only if the provider of the proxy was clueless as to the proxy's existence on his machine. If you have to go out of your way to install a proxy your intent becomes pretty clear.

      Anyone serving as

  • The nuclear option (Score:5, Interesting)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:11PM (#42718205)

    I have a feeling this is a nuclear option.

    If this is implemented, then pro-copyright extremists will argue that running or using a proxy is prima facae evidence of criminality and then lobby hard to make it illegal. Result? Anybody with a legitimate (or illegal but ethically necessary) reason to use a proxy will lose out.

    The OPs' hope that the pro-copyright extremists won't fight back hard, with legislation to ban proxies, or force China-style "real ID" laws on Internet users, is naive at best, and ultimately, dangerous.

    • While they may indeed lobby for such, it actually already is illegal. If you copy the data, you are infringing copyright, even if you don't keep the copy. Only reason the ISPs don't get hit with this as is is the DMCA protects them.
      • by icebike (68054)

        If you copy the data, you are infringing copyright, even if you don't keep the copy. Only reason the ISPs don't get hit with this as is is the DMCA protects them.

        But is merely accepting a packet and sending it on actually a copy? It you retain nothing that was sent thru your proxy, how can there be a "copy". Like unknowingly passing a counterfeit dollar bill, its arguably not a crime.
        No one claims that Viewing a Movie that you purchased on a DVD constitutes copying even though we know the data is copied thru disk buffers, cached in ram, sent on to video buffers and displayed on the screen.

        Proxies would / should be chosen explicitly to exclude those already seeding

      • by nabsltd (1313397)

        As other people have posted, it's not infringing to "copy" the data as part of the network transmission, and the part of copyright law that says it's not infringing wasn't part of the changes that are commonly referred to as the "DMCA".

        So, although TFS has some horrible errors when describing the current bittorrent protocol, there could be changes made to it where every node becomes a proxy for torrents that the node isn't actually uploading/downloading. This means that a honeypot set up by the MPAA would

    • by fredprado (2569351) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:25PM (#42718397)
      But that is the idea. The only way that has any chance of wining the fight is by forcing them to take more and more extreme measures until enough people are pissed with them.
      • The only way that has any chance of wining the fight is by forcing them to take more and more extreme measures until enough people are pissed with them.

        ha ha ha ha ha! I can't even get my wife riled up over not being able to fast forward through the previews on purchased DVDs. Probably 95% of people just don't give a shit about this stuff. The only reason people learned about SOPA was because of the blackout.

        TSA, warrant-less wiretapping, extraordinary renditions, seizing domain names, convicting weev, DUI checkpoints, etc. There is no such thing measures extreme enough for people to be pissed. And even when we do get pissed, we get a month long OWS moveme

  • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:12PM (#42718215)

    This sounds like anomos: http://anomos.info/ [anomos.info]

    I was researching this weekend, I can't seem to find out if the project is still alive. It looked well designed in 2010, and I'm not sure if it's using the Tor network (bad), or just the Tor protocol for its own network( good).

    • Sounds a lot more like "Freenet [wikipedia.org]". And you'll run into the many of the same issues with Freenet as you'll run into with this new proxied torrent system.
  • Seedboxes... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ccguy (1116865) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:12PM (#42718223) Homepage
    Seedboxes have been around for years, they solve this problem too.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:14PM (#42718253) Homepage

    What'll happen is the studios will continue to sue and subpoena the information for the machines that they see connecting to the torrent. They'll argue that it's the owners of those machines responsible for any use of their machines by others. They'll continue to use these tactics as long as the courts make it cheap for them to file and lose. That won't end until the courts start ruling that the studios know they don't have grounds for these suits and start dismissing them with prejudice and sanctioning the plaintiffs without a defendant having to do anything. Maybe the courts starting to refuse to let the plaintiffs withdraw their claims after a defendant's responded, forcing the plaintiffs to face an adverse judgement and sanctions, might stop them too, but my money's on the studios in that case betting that too few defendants will have the resources to gamble on winning that show-down.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:16PM (#42718269)

    All the studios need to do to quash this idea is to successfully argue in court that volunteering to act as a proxy host is comparable to hosting the file yourself. That does not seem like a hard argument to make. Don't the copyrighted bits have to pass through the proxy host's machine? That sounds like "distribution" to me.

    Yet another half-baked idea from frequent contributed Bennett Hasselton.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:23PM (#42718359)

    Maybe someone creates a malicious software targeted @ Verizon customers.
    It would download RIAA monitored torrents at very low bandwidth in order to be unnoticeable to the average user.
    It could download at least 6 torrents in 1 month which would result in disconnection of service.
    Lets say the attackers have a database of Verizon customer e-mails and a good method for exploitation of Windows O.S.
    Seems like one could put Verizon out of business if they are so keen on upholding their 'Six Strikes' plan.

  • The only thing that's going to do is make the industry sue internet users for simply running p2p software, regardless of what they download with it.

    That, or they'll have an internet tax created, so every ISP needs to pay the media industry protection money for each user.

  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:24PM (#42718373) Homepage Journal

    You mean make everyone responsible for everyone's downloading. You wouldn't be eliminating the lawsuits, you'd just enable them to sue everyone who was in the proxy pool, for much higher amounts than they can even now.

  • or play the game or listen to the music you downloaded. It's the making and distribution of copies that is the "problem".

    So they'll just go after the proxy runner who has both downloaded and uploaded the copyrighted content.

    Congrats on dumbest idea for the day though!

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:25PM (#42718393) Homepage

    This sounds too much like, "it's OK to rob a bank, because you're just taking the bank's money. You're not stealing from any people."

    the ISP can quite truthfully claim that they don't have any hard evidence to disconnect any particular users or turn over their identities

    Does it work that way? I mean, my ISP can tell I'm sharing something that under current law I do not have a right to share. Is my 'get out of jail' card really as simple as, yes, but I don't know who I'm sharing it with?

    On the other end, my ISP can tell I'm downloading something that under current law I do not have a right to download, but it's all good, because no one can say for sure who I'm downloading from?

    To go back to the bank robbing analogy--and I don't mean to equate copyright infringement with stealing,but--let's say I bust my way in to a bank, crack open the safe, and the next day money is missing. Would I feel comfortable going to court with the defense, "yes, I got in to the bank, and in to the safe, and the money is missing, but you can't prove I took the money?" I don't think I like that defense.

    So in this case, "yes, I uploaded your movie, but you can't prove who I uploaded it to." I don't think so. I also don't think not being able to prove who received the bits I sent is the same as not being able to prove that someone received those bits.

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      There was no effort to identify who Jammie Thomas uploaded files to, only that she made the files available from her computer for others to download. I don't see that changing anytime soon, so identifying who the downloader might be is unimportant, only that there are files being offered for download.

      I also tend to agree that No Good Can Possibly Come From Piracy. I have seen plenty of justifications like the studios are making plenty of money as it is even with rampant piracy and the Star Trek justificat

      • (I'm not sure I entirely agree with this statement yet but I'm just putting it out there)

        What happens is that media production stops becoming a viable industry and a vehicle of corporate cultural oppression tanks with it. The entire notion of manufactured popular culture and its method of control over people dissipates. Movies, music, stop becoming things for mass consumption, a relic notion of an industrial-revolution-scarcity mindset and become personal, meaningful again. People really want something i

  • Math fail (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    a little math shows that the length of the average chain is 3.5 nodes

    The average length of such a chain is 2.5, not 3.5

    (defun p (n)
    (let ((p 0.4)
    (l 1)
    (tot 0))
    (dotimes (ii n)
    (setf tot (+ tot (* p l)))
    (setf p (* 0.6 p))
    (setf l (

  • This is the kind of talk that will spur DMCA2. Where only authorized computers with sufficient limitations, forced ISP activity reporting and government backdoors will be allowed to connect to the internet.

    Because the current markets and business models developed around our old IP laws are more sacred than the natural development of technological innovation.

  • by CCarrot (1562079) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:29PM (#42718437)

    When you refuse to pay for movies, you're casting a vote against fun, big-budget movies that are made for the purpose of getting lots of people to come see them and enjoy them, and instead voting in favor of excruciatingly boring low-budget films that are made primarily so that the director could whine that the cheese-puff-snarfing American public wouldn't know great art if it bit them on their big bloated behind and subsequently didn't even buy enough tickets for the director to pay off the lien he took out on his Honda Civic to get the movie produced.

    Firstly, this [commnet.edu].

    Secondly, I'm casting a vote against not being able to use the media I purchased in the manner I want, on whatever device I want for as long as I want.

    I buy DVDs (okay, usually on sale) and rip them, because all of the legal digital versions available suck lame sauce in terms of DRM crap. If I'm feeling too lazy to rip it myself, I have no compunctions about grabbing a torrent.

    In conclusion, I would like to refer you to this handy illustrated guide [geek.com].

    Oh, and this one too [theoatmeal.com].

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:33PM (#42718465)

    First let me say that I legitimately use Bit torrent and similar programs to download (and reshare) perfectly legal things like Knoppix and other open sores software. I have had to limit my use, being a victim of the AT&T monopoly I'm subject to the data caps even for my DSL land line, so no more leaving the torrent up for a month to help share new software after it is released.

    I sure don't want my IP address associated in any way with crap like copies of the latest jar-jar movie from the hack who lied to us about Lost (illegal or legal copies). And I don't want my traffic to skyrocket to move that junk even when I didn't download it myself, just so some warez freaks can try to hide from the entertainment mafia. And if I chose to run software that knowingly routed such traffic through my computer, then I completely expect that the courts owned by the entertainment mafia would decide that I acted in collusion with the people who uploaded and downloaded the questionable files and that I was an accomplice.

    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      First let me say that I legitimately use Bit torrent and similar programs to download (and reshare) perfectly legal things like Knoppix and other open sores software.

      You should really see a doctor about that.

  • would make it impossible for third parties to identify the source or destination of the file transfer.

    Not even Tor can guarantee that unless other dozens of requirements are met. So, no.

    would hopefully put an end to the era of movie studios subpoenaing ISPs

    Erm.. no.
  • by capedgirardeau (531367) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:38PM (#42718523)

    Note that this still means that in order to initiate the download, the server S has to serve out the whole file at least once, to the first downloader -- and if the file is being distributed without the copyright owner's permission, then the operators of server S can be taken to court. This legal pressure was the reason that the Pirate Bay switched from serving BitTorrent files to serving magnet links, which enable users to download content purely from each other, without the Pirate Bay ever actually serving the content themselves.

    This shows a basic misunderstanding of how BitTorrent works.

    TPB never had any copyrighted content files on their servers ever. They served up .torrent files which were files that pointed to trackers for the content files being shared.

    Now they use magnet files, which allows users to get .torrent files from other users instead of from TPB.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:38PM (#42718531) Homepage Journal

    You're going to deploy a technology that will threaten the profits of the corporations that can can get statutes enacted definining "securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors" as "the entire life of the author plus 75 frikkin' years to an estate" - and you expect the government they own won't come down on you like a ton of bricks? You expect technical merit and plausible deniability to even be a factor here?

    Please donate to the guy who's being prosecuted for kiddie porn [lowendtalk.com] for running a Tor exit node while you think about it.

  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:39PM (#42718541) Homepage Journal

    Then you want everything in the same encrypted network and the lion's share of the usage of that network to be legitimate. Although BitTorrent over TOR is currently abusive of the TOR network, it would be better to find a means of making BitTorrent tolerable to TOR (or vice-versa) than to create a separate encrypted filesharing network.

    When this all gets tested in a courtroom, it is far better for an encrypted network to appear to be protecting privacy than to enable lawbreaking. The difference between the two is just how closely the type of data over the encrypted network matches the type of data sent over the unencrypted Internet. Better to encourage the use of TOR to everybody than to have one encrypted network for privacy advocates and another made 99% of pirates -- the latter service lowers the bar for legal decisions and laws to be made that can then ruin all encrypted networks in general.

  • This legal pressure was the reason that the Pirate Bay switched from serving BitTorrent files to serving magnet links, which enable users to download content purely from each other, without the Pirate Bay ever actually serving the content themselves.

    The Pirate Bay still serves torrents.

    For a file with few seeders, the torrent is linked on the website.
    Once the # of seeders reaches a certain threshold, the torrent link is removed.
    BUT, the torrent is still on the server and can still be accessed if you take 30 seconds to figure out the formatting of the torrent names.

    The top 200 torrents on TPB: https://thepiratebay.se/top/all [thepiratebay.se]
    Here's the the TPB .torrent for the most popular file. It has 15,093 seeders and 22,038 leechers.
    https://torrents.thepiratebay.se/8 [thepiratebay.se]

    • It is worse than just the mistake about still serving up torrent files. He seems to think TPB actually served up the copyrighted content files..

  • ...A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    I think someone just reinvented Tor.

  • May I be the first to say, fuck the RIAA, MPAA, and BSA. And, the ISP's they rode in on.

  • Is rational to penalize people for sharing some of the digits of an irrational number? It could even be a known one, like e or pi.
  • Note that this still means that in order to initiate the download, the server S has to serve out the whole file at least once, to the first downloader -- and if the file is being distributed without the copyright owner's permission, then the operators of server S can be taken to court. This legal pressure was the reason that the Pirate Bay switched from serving BitTorrent files to serving magnet links, which enable users to download content purely from each other, without the Pirate Bay ever actually serving the content themselves.

    Not at all. The person you're labeling as "server S" here would be more appropriately called the "initial seeder". Every individual that is participating in a swarm but has the entire torrent being shared is a seeder. The initial seeder is, generally, the person first making the file available. BitTorrent doesn't treat them any differently from any other seeder, though.

    There are two kinds of servers in a BitTorrent network: a tracker and an index. The trackers are actually part of the BitTorrent protocol. T

    • You're more correct than the OP, in pointing out that The Pirate Bay only transfers metadata. However, The Pirate Bay hasn't run a tracker since 2009: http://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-tracker-shuts-down-for-good-091117/ [torrentfreak.com]
    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      The Pirate Bay website is an index. They also run trackers.

      The Pirate Bay hasn't run a tracker in over a year (maybe longer).

      At this point, TPB is nothing more than a very specialized version of Slashdot, where instead of getting submissions that contain links to other websites, the user submissions are links to interesting files that aren't hosted via HTTP.

  • Anyone else noticed that movies are getting smaller? From 4.4GB for all 720p movies, 3GB-ish files are now increasingly common. Games too are abandoning the relic of the pile-o-rars in favor of more space-efficient schemes. It's the pressure of bandwidth quotas and the need to get back underground: Pirates are investing more time in compression.

    • by ifrag (984323)
      The interesting thing about that is the quality has not really dropped by much, not enough to really complain about. I suppose it's due to more use of VBR and multi-pass encoding. I tried to set that stuff up once, it's a pain and (at the time) had a lot more bugs. I suppose it's finally getting a bit more usable.
      • Multi-pass encoding actually went out of fashion in favor of quality-based encoding - crf on x264. It's as good as multipass (I know, I've tested it) with the one downside of not actually knowing how big your file will be until it's done.

        I've been working for a long time on an extensive guide to getting the absolute best out of x264. It's a long way from done yet. In particular I've yet to run extensive experimental encodes on the subq parameter - common wisdom says higher is better, but I want to know more

  • TPB never served up content, not ever, when it was serving up torrent links and has been pointed out they DO still serve LINKS. The "S" in his summary is typified incorrectly. In his example "S" is characterized as TPB, it's not. Instead "S" is the first USER who has submitted a torrent link to the TRACKER. The tracker never, not ever, not even once, passes any of the actual content information thru it. The Tracker simply tells the first person that asks for it how to contact the USER who has offered up the

    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      In addition, if I were a movie studio and a connection were proxied through a user's machine in the manner that he appears to be advocating rather than directly to a consuming user I'd still sue the proxy. My argument would be that the proxy did indeed download the content - and I'd be right. Never mind that the data was "just" passed along,

      That "never mind" doesn't apply, as copyright law says that if you are just a transit, you aren't infringing. Otherwise, the MPAA could just sue everyone who has any sort of router, switch, firewall, or other network equipment. There is nothing special about being an "ISP" that prevents them from being sued for this...it's the fact that the transient nature of the data (even if temporarily cached) makes it by definition not infringing.

      And, if this scheme was applied, you would see programs that do the pro

  • If you think this will stop anything, you haven't been paying attention to the litigation. Copyright trolls don't care if you did the downloading or not. Already, wihtout proxies they cannot identify who it was who did the downloading, as it could have been a friend, spouse, child, neighbor, or hacker... anyone who had access to the Internet connection accused of doing the downloading.

    This proxy business changes nothing. The subpoenas and settlement letters are worded such that they scare you into settli
  • As has already been pointed out, the submitter doesn't seem to understand the bittorrent protocol. Three minutes with google would have sufficed for such understanding.

    The scheme is not fundamentally different from Tor or I2p or ANts P2P in concept. The reason Tor/I2p/ANtsP2P BT swarms have not caught on and become dominant already is not because no one has bothered to write such an application or because they do not provide sufficient plausible deniability, but because all such schemes are inherently slow.

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