Wednesday, February 16, 2005

iPeer: Cashing In On Public P2P

If the infrastructure is there, why not exploit it:
"INTENT Mediaworks announced today that it has released the first peer-to-peer (P2P) software that blocks and filters unauthorized, copy-written works and sexually explicit material from being traded over P2P networks. The software, called iPeer, is a P2P file trading software application that operates on the public P2P Networks such as gnutella and is able to allow only legally authorized content to be traded between P2P users." (press release)
The iPeer software can be downloaded here, but I haven't been able to test it (restricted to Windows). From a testimony to a U.S. Senate Hearing by INTENT (available here, PDF), which provides some graphs on the workings of their technology, this description is lifted:
1. Content rights holders sign a non-exclusive distribution agreement with INTENT MediaWorks, LLC, (a copy of our agreement is attached).
2. The content owner or rights holders submit their works to INTENT MediaWorks on digital media.
3. INTENT MediaWorks converts the content into a digital format and consequently attaches digital rights management, (DRM), copy protection software to the media to prevent the copying and sharing without authorization.
4. INTENT MediaWorks reviews the content to make certain it is not illicit, unauthorized, sexually explicit or unacceptable for distribution. The content rights holder then examines the media for final inspection before distribution.
5. The content is then provisioned to be hosted on INTENT MediaWorks computer servers which seed content into the P2P software programs directly and/or provisioned through P2P service providers such as Altnet and Trustyfiles.
6. The content is ready for searching and downloading through any P2P search and file exchange management software.
If I'd put it cynically I'd say that the INTENT technology is flooding p2p networks with DRM spoofs. Users that download INTENT content are confronted with a DRM, where they expect to get free content. Not with INTENT: the user may either 1) have to listen/watch advertisements accompanying the content, 2) register at the copyrightsholders site, after which "the content rights holder will send future marketing messages via electronic mail" or 3) pay for a license to the rightsholder of the content and receive ad-free content. (Senate Testimony, p. 6).

This is a cleaver scheme, using existing p2p networks to push ad-tied-subscription content. I wonder if either users, or p2p network operators will buy into it (not to speak of DRM vulnerabilities). How long will it take to flag the DRMed INTENT content as spoofs by the networks? Will users even consider to subscribe to a (single) rightsholder for ad infected content, when they can get alternatives for free? And what to think of point number four: the screening by INTENT on illicity, sexual explicity and unacceptability, terms transcending in vagueness? So, no Eminem through INTENT, forget about the latest Pirelli calendar, and content on building an atomic bomb, overthrowing the U.S. government, or, for that matter, highly critical of INTENT. Why not? The Peer in iPeer is not about equal standing, but about free riding the protocols for profit. Nothing wrong with that, right?


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