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Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Networks


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  • 1. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Networks Alex Burns Senior Researcher, Smart Internet Technology CRC
  • 2. Overview
    • History
    • What are Peer-to-Peer (p2p) networks?
    • Social Implications (Spar and Vaidhyanathan)
    • Napster, BitTorrent, and Hyperdistribution
    • Case Studies
  • 3. Part 1: P2P Technology
  • 4. History
    • Internet infrastructure was a precursor to Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and distributed computing principles
    • P2P applied in industry applications (e-health and science)
    • Became prominent in late 1990s across college campuses
    • Illegal file-sharing as ‘killer app’ (Napster, Grokster, Kazaa)
    • Has relationship with multimedia file formats
    • Has coevolved with Digital Culture
  • 5. P2P Networks
    • Replaced the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Gopher
    • Differs from centralised Client-Server architecture
    • With P2P, each computer is both a server for remote users and a client to download files (Jason Whittaker)
    • Allows users to run programs that turn their computers into servers on a distributed network
    • SETI@Home introduced many netizens to pseudo-P2P ideas
    • Taps into Metcalfe’s Law and Reed’s Law (exponential value of more users and the power of distributed groups)
  • 6. Vaidhyanathan’s P2P Criteria
    • Siva Vaidhyanathan defines ‘distributed’ P2P systems as:
      • ‘ End-to-end’ design: involves a PC or person as end-point
      • ‘ Decentralised’: Resources spread out, can flow through system
      • ‘ Anti-authoritarian’: Not subject to ‘command-and-control’ structures, developed by hackers, mavens, and pioneers
      • ‘ Difficult to manage’: Removing content and users is impossible
      • ‘ Extensible’: Open access to many, node structure, work via protocols, comparable to diaspora population
  • 7. Part 2: Legal and Social Implications
  • 8. Implications 1: Debora Spar
    • Harvard Business School professor
    • Author of Riding The Waves (2003)
    • Neo-Marxist model of technological diffusion into society
    • Suggests the ‘Technological Frontier’ has political battles
    • How commerce and politics ‘cross-impact’ on innovation
    • Case studies on radio, digital television, the Microsoft antitrust suit, and Internet file-sharing services
    • ‘ Why rules get established along the technological frontier, and who plays the greatest role in their creation’
  • 9. Phase 1: Innovation
    • ‘ The sexiest phase along the technological frontier’
    • Tinkerers, inventors, and discoverers
    • Visionaries and Early Adopters (Geoffrey Moore)
    • Small and specialised groups, non-commercial use
    • Research labs and technology consortiums
    • ‘ No rules because none is needed’
    • Government regulation still possible at early phase
    • ‘ In many ways the most peaceful . . . Often ends abruptly’
  • 10. Phase 2: Commercialisation
    • ‘ The defining moment of the frontier economy’
    • Libertarian politics as the norm
    • Pioneers, Pirates, Marshals, Outlaws, Dotcom Entrepreneurs
    • Focus on Venture Capitalists and prototype-to-market
    • Depicted in Jehane Noujaim’s film (2001)
    • Shift to early mainstream in pursuit of profits (Geoffrey Moore)
    • ‘ During these times of technological flux, the rules are just too flimsy’
    • Cryptography and hacker debate in ‘arms race’ with regulators (Kevin Mitnick, Philip Zimmerman, Bruce Schneier)
  • 11. Phase 3: Creative Anarchy
    • ‘ Creative anarchy is the most frustrating stage’
    • Chaos Rules school emerges as significant barrier
    • ‘ Tragedy of the Commons’ scenario
    • Shift from libertarian politics to laissez-faire markets
    • Standards coordination and ‘hypercompetition’ as problems
    • Legal battles over Intellectual Property rights and ownership
    • Early pioneers are outwitted by entrepreneurs
    • Technology maturity: diffusion pressure for mainstream
    • ‘ Digital Natives’ create enclaves to survive
  • 12. Phase 4: Rules
    • ‘ Rules get created because private firms want them’
    • Initiative may come from companies, nation-state, groups
    • Embed politics in markets: access, power, social norms
    • Shift from firms to self-regulation or government intervention
    • Government involvement necessary to enforce rules
    • Professional groups for codifying international standards
    • Firms ‘use the state to preserve its own commercial empire’
    • U.S. DoJ v Microsoft antitrust suit
    • Napster, Grokster, and Kazaa court rulings
  • 13.
    • Associate Professor at New York University
    • Author of The Anarchist In The Library (2004)
    • Influenced by political philosopher Robert Nozick
    • Coevolutionary model of technology and users
    • Interested in ‘the ideology of P2P’ (Jack M. Balkin)
    • P2P as ‘alternative future’ to Dotcom-era visions
    • Posits an ‘access versus ownership’ debate
    • Warns of ‘bleed-through’ when online debates have serious ‘offline’ implications (legal precedents, social norms)
    Implications 2: Siva Vaidhyanathan
  • 14. Vaidhyanathan’s P2P Critique
    • Tension between hypercapitalism and knowledge creation
    • Challenges ‘artificial scarcity’
    • Encourages ‘inconspicuous consumption’ and ‘conspicuous production’
    • Distinction between P2P use and real piracy
    • Transborder networks may harness creativity and global flows
    • P2P like any other technology alters our online environment
    • Is contract law obsolete or misplaced?
    • What do the industry debates reveal about P2P ethics?
  • 15. Napster
    • Created by Shawn Fanning in 1999
    • Touted as ‘disruptive’ technology (Clayton M. Christensen)
    • ‘ Jukebox in the Sky’ fears for music industry
    • Counter-attack spearheaded by Metallica’s Lars Ulrich
    • 26.4 million users in February 2001
    • Ninth Court Circuit injunction on 5 March 2001
    • Acquired by Roxio Inc. and used to rebrand PressPlay service as Napster 2.0 subscription service
  • 16.
    • ‘ Napsterisation’ touted as business model by press
    • Scrutiny of music industry ‘standard operating procedures’
    • Second generation services: Grokster, Kazaa
    • Led to BitTorrent as a true P2P alternative
    • Established MP3 as a major audio file format (standards)
    • Helped to create market for Apple iPod player
    • Impact on digital and mobile phone cultures
    • Wired Magazine promotes ‘remix cultures’ (2005)
    Napster Outcomes
  • 17. BitTorrent
    • Created by programmer Bram Cohen in 2002
    • A P2P distribution protocol and client application
    • ‘ Seeds’ files into distributed ‘packets’ over many computers
    • Additional ‘seeds’ creates more bandwidth
    • Client software such as Azureus
    • Accounts for 20-30% of total broadband traffic (estimates)
    • Attempts to shutdown major ‘Torrent’ sites
    • Popularised anime and manga in West
  • 18. Hyperdistribution
    • Coined by VRML creator Mark Pesce
    • Relevant to Negroponte’s ‘atoms’ versus ‘bits’
    • BitTorrent-enabled content distribution
    • ‘ Disruptive’ to traditional media distribution practices
    • Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who cases
    • Opportunities for ‘indie’ distribution
    • Avoids institutional bottlenecks and gridlock
    • ‘ The Napsterization of Everything’ (Mary Hodder)
    • Blogs + P2P Democracy (Howard Dean’s PR maven Joe Trippi)
  • 19. Recent P2P Rulings
    • MGM v Grokster and Streamcast Technologies (27 June 2005)
      • Involved 28 entertainment companies as litigants
      • Electronic Freedom Foundation defended Grokster and Streamcast
      • P2P software manufacturers liable for infringing users
      • Clarification on 1984 Sony Betamax case
      • Inducement theory of copyright liability (new precedent)
      • Risk that manufacturers have to modify technologies for Hollywood
    • Universal Music v Sharman Networks (5 September 2005)
      • Orders Kazaa to implement software provisions immediately
      • Kazaa must use filters to prevent searches for illegal software
      • Avoided the Trade Practices Act statutes
      • Kazaa likely to appeal to High Court of Australia
  • 20. Michael Geist’s P2P Myths
    • University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist offers P2P Myths:
      • Music industry is suffering financial losses
      • This is directly attributable to illegal file-sharing using P2P
      • Losses have impacted on commercial artists and musicians
    • Accurate downloading figures are difficult to determine
    • Challenge to over-priced CD format and Wal Mart retail
    • Decline may reflect broader economic concessions
    • Music industry fails to deal with artist contracts and royalties
    • P2P presents an opportunity for independent companies
  • 21. P2P and Internet Futures
    • ‘ P2P Civilization’ meme (Integral theorist Michel Bauwens)
    • Influenced by Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his writings on the ‘noosphere’: The Phenomenon of Man (1956) and The Future of Man (1959)
    • Internet Futures: ‘P2P Civilization’ meme (Michel Bauwens) and the ‘noosphere’ (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
    • Teilhard de Chardin later interpreted by techno-futurists as ‘mystical McLuhan’
    • P2P as technological infrastructure for Global Brain consciousness (Peter Russell, Willis Harman, Howard Bloom, Robert Wright)
  • 22. Part 3: Case Studies
  • 23. P2P and Digital Homes
    • Rich Media school of thought
    • Digital Hollywood’s preferred vision
    • P2P integrated with new Broadband-enabled entertainment console (Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3)
    • ‘ Always connected, always personalized, and always in high-definition’ (Microsoft, GDCA, 2005)
    • Broader gamer demographics than ‘youthful’ stereotype
  • 24. Digital Television Content
    • SciFi Network’s Battlestar Galactica mini-series (2003) was distributed by U.K. fans on BitTorrent before its U.S. screening
    • SciFi Network developed ancillary content for digital television viewers
    • Visionaries/Early Adopters used ‘viral marketing’ to promote the program
    • Synergies between P2P use and Digital Culture fandom
    • Producers forced to release first episodes of Battlestar Galactica series online
  • 25. Outfoxed (2004)
    • Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed (2004) critiques Fox Networks’ news bias. Outfoxed book released in 2005 by Alexandra Kitty.
    • Used web communities to tape and analyse one month of Fox’s broadcasts (P2P and social networks)
    • DVD and theatrical distribution avoided distribution problems: inspired by P2P strategies
    • Greenwald has released his interview footage under a Creative Commons license for remixing/sampling (Open Source)
    • New documentary Wal Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price (November 2005) leverages P2P during production and post-production
  • 26. P2P Collaborative Research
    • Center For Cooperative Research (
    • ‘ Collaborative investigations at grassroots level’
    • ‘ Open-content model for public historical record’
    • Critiques the 9/11 Commission Report using official documents + agenda-setting news sources
    • Paul Thompson’s Terror Timeline (2004)
    • New projects: Iraq and Iran Timelines
    • Public collaboration model inspired by ‘P2P Ideology’: critique of elite media strategies
    • Impact on information acquisition and production
  • 27. The Power Of Nightmares (2004)
    • Controversial 9/11 historiography documentary by BBC producer Adam Curtis
    • Refused distribution in United States and other major territories
    • Australian television broadcast by SBS delayed due to London bombings on 7 July 2005
    • Low-resolution ‘bootleg’ copy released online by
    • BitTorrent and distribute copies obtained from BBC digital television broadcasts
    • Grand Prix competition at 2005 Cannes Film Festival
    • Pathe negotiates theatrical release for 2 ½ hour cut
  • 28. Nine Inch Nails: ‘Only’ (2005)
    • Single (2005) by industrial band Nine Inch Nails
    • Trent Reznor released master multitrack sessions in 4 formats (incl. ProTools, GarageBand, and Acid) programs
    • Enables fans to remix single into different versions: ‘conspicuous production’ (Vaidhyanathan)
    • Example of using pseudo-P2P for ‘User-led Innovation’ (Eric von Hippel)
    • Pseudo-P2P used as ‘Sustaining’ technology to thwart illegal downloads and engage with fans