Monday, April 2, 2012

You Can't Ignore Engineering and Mathematical Facts When Discussing Copyright

Unfortunately a lot of the pro-copyright crowd is totally tone deaf to the concerns of engineers. Some of them, especially the lawyer types, think there is some magical Internet fairy that can sniff websites for copyright infringement. If only Google knew about this, they could stop piracy overnight!

Devlin Hartline points out some sites Google blocked. Over 11 million domains blocked by Google! That's a HUGE number. Huge numbers conclusively prove that the Google censors can stop piracy, if they wanted to. Somehow.

It is only people who know nothing about Computer Science who would make such absurd claims. Those 11 million sites could be matched by a single trivial regular expression. Go ahead, write Google the regular expression needed to block piracy. I'm sure they'd put it into production right away.

In our debates about copyright, let us not ignore protocols which implement a peer-to-peer topology. This is where a lot of filesharing happens. P2P is the idea that various peers (filesharers in this case) connect to each other directly. There is no intermediary involved. P2P filesharing has been going on for 10 years unabated though networks like Gnutella and the copyright crusaders can do squat about it, Gnutella can't be shut down because there is nothing to shut down. It's a protocol, not an infrastructure.

TPB has engineered itself to be based on P2P technology, using the new BitTorrent DHT system based on the concept of magnet links. A $10 flash drive can carry the entire TPB website in your pocket. If they shut it down, anyone can just put it back up. That's why TPB hasn't been shut down despite being declared illegal in over 9000 jurisdictions.

Here is an example of the dreaded copyright-killing magnet link. With this information, you can download something via P2P BitTorrent:


There is nothing hidden, no secret link to TPB or some random cyber locker. That string of text you see in your face would work just as well tattooed on your butt.

First of all, how do you know what this gets you? It's a hex string that doesn't encode the contents it describes. It could be the latest Hollywood movie, it could be something even worse.

Remember, there is no magical way to know if something is copyright infringement. In fact, without telling you what that magnet link is, there is no way for you to even know what is until you actually try to download it. Copyright is not a natural trait of data, no matter how many laws you force down the legal system this will always be so.

In this case, this magnet link points to a popular open source Linux distro. Non-copyright infringing uses for P2P, who would have known?

Don't even get me started on DRM, the whole concept is built on mathematically unsound foundations. How the hell are you suppose to protect a decryption key when that key is needed to play the media?

When you are fighting against piracy, you aren't just fighting against an increasingly politically connected foe, you are fighting against a foe that has the technology and quite frankly the laws of nature and mathematics on their side. I'm glad I'm not in that camp, it must be frustrating as hell.

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