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Napster, Gnutella, & BitTorrent: Legal & Technical


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The protocols of Napster, Gnutella, & BitTorrent are not illegal; only the user infringing copyright is illegal. …

The protocols of Napster, Gnutella, & BitTorrent are not illegal; only the user infringing copyright is illegal.
COSC4211 - Computer Scientists & Society
University of Houston

Published in: Technology

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  • 1. Napster, Gnutella, BitTorrent: Discuss legal and technical aspects
    By: Kaleb Fulgham
  • 2. Overview
    Legal issues
    DMCA & Copyright Act of 1976
    Court cases & lawsuits
  • 3. History
  • 4. Napster
    June 1999: Shawn Fanning, undergraduate at Northeastern University, & Sean Parker released Napster, the first major Peer-to-Peer (P2P) software
    Faster and less frustrating way to swap MP3s online than HTTP & FTP
    Inspired by IRC’s easy-to-use format
    Central servers contained an index of lists of user music files
    Search box
    List of usernames & their files
  • 5. Napster
    Built in C++ and popularized through IRC
    October 1999: 150,000 registered users trading 3.5 million files
    February 2001: 26.4 million registered users
    Peaked in 2001: 150 index only servers containing IP address info on usernames & their MP3 metadata
    Similar to a telephone switchboard operator
  • 6. Napster
    Napster client connects to a central server
    User queries the NapsterCentral Index Server
    Central server returns alist of matches
    Napster client connectswith the computer hosting the file
    Client drops allowing private transfer
    Your Computer
  • 7. Gnutella
    March 2000: Justin Frankel & Tom Peppers of high-tech Nullsoft (an AOL acquisition) published Gnutella.
    Nullsoft created MP3-player Winamp
    Functionally similar to Napster
    Key Difference: Did NOT rely on one central server
    Each user or “node” functioned as their own server
    Pre-loaded with IP addresses of known nodes
  • 8. Gnutella
    Gnutella posted on AOL’s website
    Slashdot news leak led to increased publicity
    AOL & Time Warner (Music Group) merger
    AOL made Nullsoft abandon project
    Gnutella had spread world-wide
    Free & open source clones appeared
    Examples: LimeWire & BearShare
  • 9. Gnutella
    Gnutella client knows at least 1 other node
    User queries 1st node
    The node sendsrequest to other nodesuntil song is found
    TTL limited requests
    Returns file name andmachine IP address
    Client connects to file owner’s node to transfer
  • 10. Gnutella
    Latest Gnutella Version 0.6
    Composite network: Leaf nodes and Ultrapeers
    Leaf nodes connect to ~3 Ultrapeers
    Ultrapeer connects to >32 other Ultrapeers
    Max number of “hops” lowered from 7 to 4.
  • 11. BitTorrent
    July 2001: Bram Cohen released the BitTorrent protocol which he designed in April 2001
    • Efficient at sharing large quantities of data
    • 12. Download pieces of the file(s) simultaneously from multiple peers
    • 13. Tracker servers inform clients of all online active peers
    • 14. Downloads “rarest-first” to ensure high availability
  • BitTorrent
    Torrent file – .torrent
    Metadata about the file(s) shared
    Checksums of identically sized (512KB) pieces of the file(s) being shared
    Tracker server(s) – help coordinate file distribution
    BitTorrent protocol does NOT offer search
    Many websites offer searchable indexes of torrents
    Tracker servers are run on torrent search websites & some companies who need to distribute large files
  • 15. BitTorrent
    User searches for a torrent
    User downloads & opens itwith a BitTorrent client
    Client connects to the tracker(s) in the torrent file
    Receives a list of peers currently transferring thepieces of the file(s) specified in the torrent.
    Client connects to peers to obtain the various pieces.
  • 16. Legal Issues
  • 17. Legal ISSUES
    DMCA & Copyright Act of 1976
    Court cases & lawsuits
    A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.
    MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd.
    The Pirate Bay (BitTorrent) Raid in Sweden
    RIAA v. the People
    MPAA v. TorrentSpy
  • 18. RIAA & MPAA
    RIAA – Recording Industry Association of America
    Represents the recording industry
    Protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists
    Perform research about the music industry
    Monitor and review relevant laws, regulations and policies
    MPAA – Motion Picture Association of America
    Advance business interests of movie studios
    Film rating system & Anti-piracy measures
  • 19. DMCA & Copyright AcT
    Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998
    Subpoena To Identify Infringer - 17 U.S.C. § 512(h)
    Copyright Act of 1976
    Liable $750 - $30,000 per song, feature film, etc. illegally traded as the court considers just
    Up to $150,000 per title if intentional & willful
  • 20. A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.
    December 1999: RIAA filed a lawsuit against Napster
    RIAA argued in District Court
    Napster users directly infringe on plaintiff’s copyright
    Napster is liable for contributory & vicarious copyright infringement
    Internal Napster email from Sean Parker to Shawn Fanning stating that users know they are “exchanging pirated music.”
  • 21. A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.
    Napster’s defense
    Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.
    Napster similar to Sony Betamax VHS recorder
    Fair Use
    Permissive distribution
    Audio Home Recording Act
  • 22. A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.
    United States District Court ruled in favor of the RIAA
    United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    Napster - Liable for contributory & vicarious infringement
    Napster users infringe at least two of the copyright holders’ rights
    the rights of reproduction, § 106(1)
    distribution, § 106(3)
  • 23. A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.
    Ninth Circuit ruling March 5, 2001
    Napster capable of commercially significant non-infringing uses
    Could control the infringing behavior of users
    Must prevent trading of copyright music
    Napster paid roughly $36 million to copyright owners
  • 24. MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd
    June 2005: MGM sued P2P client companies Grokster & Streamcast
    P2P lost for inducing copyright infringement for acts taken in marketing their file sharing software
    Both advertised as “Napster alternatives”
    “[T]he goal is to get in trouble with the law and get sued. It’s the best way to get in the new[s]”– Streamcast chief technology officer
    MGM statistician revealed that ~90% of all files available on the P2P were copyrighted works
  • 25. The Pirate Bay Raid
    2004: MPAA pressured the U.S. and Swedish government to shut down The Pirate Bay
    May 2006: Police in Sweden raided The Pirate Bay, shut down their website, & confiscated their servers
    The Pirate Bay
    BitTorrent search engine & tracker server
    Launched in November 2003 by Gottfrid Svartholm & Fredrik Neij
    Down for 3 days
    Publicity and +1.7 million more users
  • 26. The Pirate Bay Trial
    January 2008: Criminal & civil prosecution in Sweden for promoting the copyright infringement of others with torrents by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
    Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, and Carl Lundström
    Found guilty
    Sentenced to 1 year in prison
    Pay a fine of $3.5 million
  • 27. RIAA v. the People
    2003: RIAA began a litigation campaign against those who infringe copyright law
    Lawsuits against ~30,000 people
    Usually settled out of court: $3,500 avg. total
    Court settlements: $750 - $150,000 per song
    “Attempted distribution” is NOT in Copyright Act
    Simply storing copyright material in P2P “share” folders
    “Infringement of the distribution right requires an actual dissemination of either copies or phonorecords” – cited in Atlantic v. Howell
  • 28. RIAA v. the People
    October 2008: Harper claimed she did not know she was doing anything illegal
    She thought downloading music was like the radio
    Judge ruled $7,400 (37 songs @ $200/song) for “innocent infringement”
    June 2009: Jamie Thomas-Rasset found liable for infringing 24 songs for $1.92 million
    July 2009: Joel Tenenbaum found liable for infringing 30 songs for $675,000
  • 29. MPAA v. TorrentSpy
    February 2006: MPAA sued
    Facilitating copyright infringement by linking to torrents containing copyright films
    May 2008: U.S. District Judge ruled
    Against’s Justin Bunnell & associates
    Must pay the max $30,000 for “each of the 3,699 infringements shown.”
    $111 million
  • 30. Conclusion
    Direct HTTP / FTP downloads strain servers
    P2P file sharing systems
    Convenient to search
    Effectively distribute load
    Majority of content on BitTorrent & P2P is copyright material
    Downloading & Sharing copyright information without permission is copyright infringement
    Public domain file sharing is LEGAL!
  • 31. g
  • 32. Sources for diagrams
    Appetite for Self-Destruction – Steve Knopper
    All The Rave – Joseph Menn
    ArsTechnica –
    EFF –