Kazaa will 'live on' regardless: Sharman witness

Sharman Networks' expert witness has revealed that the Kazaa Media Desktop (KMD) and FastTrack peer-to-peer system will continue to spread even if both systems were to be shut down.

Sharman Networks' expert witness has revealed that the Kazaa Media Desktop (KMD) and FastTrack peer-to-peer system will continue to spread even if both systems were to be shut down.

Keith Ross, professor of computer science at the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn New York, said during the special Saturday session in the ongoing trial against the peer to peer software provider for alleged copyright infringement, that FastTrack and Kazaa have "a life of [their] own" and do not require any intervention from a centralised authority.

FastTrack is another P2P file sharing technology. The FastTrack protocol is implemented in a FastTrack software module, which belongs to Joltid. Ross said there are currently many graphical user interface (GUI) that operate with FastTrack, including Kazaa, Grokster, iMesh, Kazaa Lite, mlDonkey, Morpheus, X-Factor, Poisoned and Trusty Files.

A GUI combined with FastTRack constitutes a FastTrack user program, which runs on a single computer. All of these FastTrack user programs combined shared files with each other using the FastTrack protocol.

FastTrack is one of the software components included in the KMD. It handles key P2P file sharing functionality, namely searches, downloads and uploads. The Kazaa GUI is a graphical interface between the user and the FastTrack module.

Ross said that unlike Napster, "FastTrack cannot be shut down by simply pulling the plug on a centralised server farm".

He added that there are in excess of 400 million FastTrack user programs that have already been downloaded.

"Even if the respondents were to shut down, these user programs would still be present in user computers and would still be able to maintain the overlay network without any help from an outside server. FastTrack will likely persist for many years even if the respondents stopped distributing or updating the KMD," he said.

"If the Kazaa Web site were shut down, then new users would not be able to obtain the KMD and access FastTrack through a Kazaa GUI obtained from Sharman Networks. However, existing Kazaa users would be able to continue to use FastTrack. New users could also access FastTrack by acquiring a copy of a different FastTrack user program such as Grokster, iMesh etc. If either Sharman or the owners of FastTrack were to be shut down, it is likely that the new hacked versions of the software would continue to proliferate in the Internet," Ross said.

In his affidavit, Ross said that the only control one could have over the files downloaded by users of the Kazaa system is to prevent a user node from getting the information necessary to get the file (i.e. IP address, port number, and Contenthash).

"That information is distributed through other nodes. Particularly in FastTrack architecture, the information comes from supernodes that have in turn collected the information from their child nodes. So the only way the respondents [Sharman Network and parties] could prevent a node from receiving that information would be for the respondents to communicate with the supernodes and cause them to withhold the information. Based on my knowledge of the software architecture, I am not aware of anything that would allow the respondents to cause a supernode to withhold that information."

Ross added that Sharman Networks and parties do not know what a particular user's search request is. "This is because the search request is sent by an ordinary node to a supernode and the response comes back directly from that supernode. So there is only a direct communication between the ordinary node and supernode. The 'dialog' that takes place is very localised, and third parties, including the respondents, do not get to 'see' it."

He added that the requests are also encrypted so that even if the respondents were able to capture the requests, they would not be able to determine what was being requested, unless they had access to the encryption.

"If it becomes known to Sharman that a user is infringing copyright --although it is not clear to me how they would obtain such knowledge -- Sharman could not stop this user from unauthorised distribution of files. Sharman has no control over the user, and there is nothing it can do to prevent the user from putting unauthorised files in its My Share Folder and from connection to the FastTrack network," Ross said.

Ross believes that the KMD could not be designed to collect and report the identity and other information about the users. He said that it would be necessary to alert both KMD and FastTrack to create the functionality suggested by the applicants' expert witnesses.

"At present, the KMD can, at best, collect in response to a particular search the IP addresses for peer nodes that are sharing and the corresponding alias names of the users who have files with metadata matching the search terms," Ross said.

The trial will continue on Wednesday.