File-swap software will foil enforcers

Modifications to file-sharing programs like Kazaa will block attempts to identify copyright material

Peer-to-peer file-sharing software developers say user privacy-protection concerns are behind the introduction of features designed to foil scanning by organisations representing owners of copyright-protected material.

The claims come as the music industry in the US ploughs ahead with moves to file a raft of civil lawsuits against people allegedly involved in online file-sharing. Some reports indicate more than 800 federal subpoenas have already been issued.

The developers of one variant of Sharman Networks' popular Kazaa file-sharing software, Kazaa K++, say their latest version -- 2.4.0 -- blocks the Recording Industry Association of America from "connecting, downloading and uploading to you," as well as changing its default options "to protect your privacy". The developers of another variant -- Kazaa Lite -- also tout the benefits in their latest release of a "built-in IP blocker" in keeping out "organisations such as the RIAA," as well as "improved privacy protection".

The Kazaa Lite developers claim version 2.10 build 3 and newer of their variant are ideal for users who are "afraid of the entertainment industry," whose countries have "stupid" copyright laws and who don't share because they "are afraid of doing so".

The developers' move intensifies the battle between the P2P community and the RIAA, who last month said it would start to gather evidence against individuals who trade songs on peer-to-peer networks.

Both Kazaa Lite version 2.4.0 and Kazaa K++ -- neither of which are affiliated with Sharman Networks -- utilise the PeerGuardian database of IP addresses that are believed to be associated with "P2P-enemies" such as RIAA. These IP addresses are blocked to prevent the organisations from connecting, downloading and uploading to the individual to gather information about the activities of the P2P user.

The programs also allow users to disable the function that allows remote users to see what files are on the computer. Hence, when someone searches for a song and finds it on the users' computer, they cannot then create a list of all files available to be shared. Although this may give other users the impression the individual is not sharing files, "for some people privacy is what counts," reads the Kazaa Lite Web site.

However, the music industry has already demonstrated they're willing to take users to court for one example of copyright infringement, with three Australian universities being ordered to hand over files that may contain evidence of copyright infringement to the music industry. One of the Web sites targeted in the action contained only one song for download. It would also be a relatively simple matter for the music industry to change the IP address from which it was scanning the P2P networks.

Last week, the Australian Record Industry Association released figures from a survey it claimed show that illegal file-sharing is hurting the Australian music industry. Critics of the survey claim it included legal CD-burning in its statistics, and that the numbers returned were inconsistent.


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