Blog Archives

Rockin’ Friday! – ’10 Inconvenient Truths’

Marty Friedman -Ex Member of Megadeth

Hello everyone! This week I will reply to this site I found about music piracy, simply titled ‘Music Piracy – Ten Inconvenient Truths.’ I found this on the ‘IFPI’ site, which represents the worldwide recording industry. Here are the 10 inconvenient truths it listed:

1. Pirate Bay, one of the flagships of the anti-copyright movement, makes thousands of euros from advertising on its site, while maintaining its anti-establishment “free music” rhetoric.

2. Allofmp3.com, the well-known Russian website, has not been licensed by a single IFPI member, has been disowned by right holder groups worldwide and is facing criminal proceedings in Russia.

3. Organised criminal gangs and even terrorist groups use the sale of counterfeit CDs to raise revenue and launder money.

4. Illegal file-sharers don’t care whether the copyright infringing work they distribute is from a major or independent label.

5. Reduced revenues for record companies mean less money available to take a risk on “underground” artists and more inclination to invest in “bankers” like American Idol stars.

6. ISPs often advertise music as a benefit of signing up to their service, but facilitate the illegal swapping on copyright infringing music on a grand scale.

7. The anti-copyright movement does not create jobs, exports, tax revenues and economic growth – it largely consists of people pontificating on a commercial world about which they know little.

8. Piracy is not caused by poverty. Professor Zhang of Nanjing University found the Chinese citizens who bought pirate products were mainly middle or higher income earners.

9. Most people know it is wrong to file-share copyright infringing material but won’t stop till the law makes them, according to a recent study by the Australian anti-piracy group MIPI.

10. P2P networks are not hotbeds for discovering new music. It is popular music that is illegally file-shared most frequently.

Now, I wish to to dispute a few of these comments, and add my own. Of course, I have no numbers to back me up, unlike the IFPI, and this is merely my opinion. If I’ve said anything that’s blatantly wrong, let me know in the comments and I’ll take it back. So here are my 10 inconvenient truths:

  1. (Point 1) The Pirate Bay making money through advertising has little to do with the “free music” it provides/advocates. Advertising companies pay the Pirate Bay for advertising space, and therefore Pirate Bay can afford to provide free stuff. Webcomics such as Ctrl-Alt-Del sell advertising space so they can afford to continue writing their comics and hosting them. The Pirate Bay making money in such a way means that they aren’t making money at anyone’s expense.
  2. (Point 3) Sure, counterfeit CDs can be sold to make money for criminals. But what money can they possibly make from free file-sharing?
  3. (Point 5) Reduced revenues for record companies and therefore reduced interest in underground bands just forces these underground bands to find other ways to get in touch with the people which these record companies are further alienating through their brutish attempts to control them. An example is the Arctic Monkeys, who, although now a huge UK band, started off gaining mainstream popularity through MySpace. Underground bands don’t need record companies to get popular if they’re good. ‘Bankers’ do.
  4. (Point 7) Anti-copyright movements mostly consist of the consumers who are getting more and more fed-up with the methods of organisations such as the RIAA. They may not know much about the economical aspect of the music industry, but they know a lot when it comes down to how their rights are being treated, hence the backlash.
  5. (Point 10) Anti-piracy campaigners often claim that it is the underground and small bands that suffer, yet how is this true if it is mostly the popular music that is downloaded?
  6. And if it is the popular bands that receive the most attention from pirates, surely they are also the ones most able to handle it financially?
  7. The most money a musician or band makes is rarely from album or single sales. Merchandise and Live performances are the true money-makers for most.
  8. Due to the way the consumer is being alienated by these organisations and record companies, musicians are finding other ways to get in touch, and those that don’t are losing popularity. Look at what happened to Metallica when they took on Napster. And now look at bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, who are finding new ways to bring their music to the masses.
  9. Record companies and copyright organisations are, on the whole, still not realising the potential that the Internet provides financially, and therefore, rather than embracing it, they are trying to fight against something which is impossible to control. Again leading to the alienation of the consumer.
  10. The customer is always right ;)

Yeah, that’s all. Again, if I’ve made an incorrect claim, let me know. I have no agenda, just playing devil’s advocate :)

Rock on! \m/

[STD] P2P Is My Hot Hot Sex

Define STD: STD for The Underground Blog is short for Savvy Tech Dude/Dudette. The STD story is my attempt to share some insight into some of my practices, as well as others as to how they are using technology to make their life better, saving money, or perhaps bettering the environment. (Hopefully, I can find a female contributor… :) )

Frequency of Story: When it feels right.

Personal Comment: I really love the STD idea, and with topics so broad, I can go anywhere with this series. The question is, how far down the rabbit hole do you and I want to go? :P

In the meantime, I encourage all forms of interaction. Please sound off in comments, I’d appreciate it. If you have an idea, or want me to consider something different, I will. If you want to spread the word, be my guest. As time goes along, I’m asking for people to contribute, or if you want to be interviewed (I’ll protect your identity), then we can dig deeper. Please consider my offer, thanks!

********************************************************************************

All right guys, I’m back in action to continue the STD stories. Last time around, I dived a little bit into the minds of the pirates, and how casual pirating has become “OK” in today’s society, especially among our youngsters, and even among the elderly. This time around, I want to slightly touch upon P2P scene in general, and what this means for the world around us.

Do not expect me to go into hardcore detail as to what is a torrent and how it works. I will go over a brief overview, but if you really want to learn about the protocol, please see the Wikipedia link at the end of this post. This is based off an interview account with a fellow internet user. His account is below, and we shall name him Cracker Jack.

(Image source: http://crunchgear.com)

[This is Cracker Jack’s Story]

Cracker Jack went to high school during the late nineties, and his first introduction into P2P was Napster. Do any of you remember using the old school Napster? Without Napster, you would not have iMesh, Scour, Limewire, WinMX, BearShare, and the sort.

What was Napster? It was a program that let you search other people’s hard drives for media content. You could find music, movies, pictures, text files, pdfs, just about anything to your heart content if you put in the right search term. See image below for example of the old school Napster interface:

Screenshot of Napster

So Cracker Jack’s family was just coming online with high speed internet and Cracker Jack remembers using 56K since the mid nineties, and when Yahoo DSL came to his neighborhood, he felt like a spoiled kid inside a candy store. Cracker Jack made a long list of must have movies like Terminator 1 & 2, Predator 1, Predator 2, whole slew of Adam Sandler movies, and bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes because he was old school like that.

Then a grim day came in Year 2000 when Metallica found out that their song they had made for Mission Impossible 2 was leaked onto Napster. Since Napster used a centralized system for keeping track of all the files, it was very easy to take down the system. Destroy the central server, and good bye illegal file sharing…right? (Note: Today Napster is a legal music machine, where you pay to download music. Napster is a sell out. :P)

Surprise! The ball for P2P has already started, and there was no turning back. within a short amount of time, you started getting decentralized networks popping up, good examples being Edonkey, and the Fast Track network which used programs like iMesh, or Kazaa.

Kazaa Banner

Well, did you know that the Kazaa program was riddled with spyware? Hell, it probably is still today. Hence, it was no surprise that some programmer came out with Kazaa Lite. Kazaa Lite was everything the original Kazaa program was, but without the spyware. It ran fast, and you can search everything you wanted for without worry big brother is watching you.

So Cracker Jack used Kazaa lite for a long time, but after awhile he and others got sick of it. Fake music files, and incorrectly named movies was becoming the norm. Cracker Jack dabbled into the IRC scene, downloaded music, and even messed around with the AOL Warez scene. He had been on serial key websites, and even made his own (short lived though). Since then, Cracker Jack had visited Warez sites, and underground forums with links to rapidshare and all kinds of digital media.

Life was good, but was it? In 2001 the biggest thing since sliced bread was the invention of BitTorrent, created by Bram Cohen. Now I won’t go into all the technical details as to how that works, but what it does is it allows people to distribute files very quickly and efficiently.

What you do is you get a “torrent” file, and the torrent file is like a pointer file that points to the complete file that is hosted on a bunch of computers that are sharing the file, or otherwise known as seeders. When you download a file, you are considered a leecher. The whole entity of seeders and leechers is considered the swarm.

Unlike traditional HTTP downloads, bitTorrent throttles its bandwidth. The beauty of the protocol is that it allows the user to download a file very fast, since it downloads bit and pieces of the file simultaneously from all computers in the network. The interesting part of bitTorrent is that when you download, you also upload at the same time. Thus, the file never dies until there are 0 seeders in the system. See below picture for more clarification.

Now in the P2P torrent scene, there is something called trackers. Trackers are employed by both public and private torrent websites. What these trackers do is keep track of the files activity, and it is what tracks the upload/download ratio of any specific user, as found on private websites like Demonoid.com.

Now I (Versatile1) won’t go into all the details as to how to get involved with torrents, but just know there are programs called torrent clients that allow you to use torrent files so you can download whatever to your computer. To find torrents, you can visit private membership sites (demonoid.com), or you can go to public sites like torrentz.com or isohunt.com. (See end for more resources).

With the advent of torrents, it has become the prime medium for file distribution. Please note that bitTorrent protocol is not illegal, it is sharing of copyrighted materials that make it illegal.

This is why you hear stories of the MPAA, BSA, and the RIAA cracking down on file sharers. When you use a torrent client, it effectively shares your IP address with the rest of the world. The copyright organizations can effectively log onto any torrent, collect all the IP addresses that they see at any given time, and then hunt you down. *shivers*

Of course, programs like Utorrent and Azureus allow you to use encryption, but I don’t think it saves you from having your IP address shared. Hence, we talk briefly about another program called PeerGuardian 2.

In short, Peerguardian 2 is a IP blocklist program. It allows the user to connect to a blocklist website and download a list of IPs that is affiliated with evil organizations. Of course, the protection of the user is only as good as the robustness of the blocklist. Nonetheless, using PG2 is better than using nothing at all. I still use torrents today with PG2, and if you use torrents, you should too.

********************************************************************************

The bottom line: Peer to Peer technology has come a long way. As people find ways to share digital media online, it is a battle between sharing items without being undetected, while at the same time achieve optimal network efficiency. The P2P scene started with decentralized technology, but now everything has either moved to decentralized networks, pay to play schemes, IRC, UseNet, or underground DC++ hubs. File sharing will always exist, and it will be here forever. The only thing we as consumers need to do is just be careful in what you decide to download/upload, because big brother will be watching.

In summary:

  • Napster started the P2P scene for the general public. It used a centralized system, but was easy to take down because of its centralized server.
  • Today Napster uses a music subscription system, and is considered a sell-out to hardcore P2P fans.
  • When Napster first went away, new decentralized programs took its place such as Kazaa, iMesh, Scour, Limewire, BearShare, and more. Many of these programs still exist today.
  • BitTorrent came in 2001 and is the most popular technology today to distribute files. Never ever use the original bitTorrent client, as it sucks. I used to use Azerus, but I highly recommend Utorrent instead.
  • To protect yourself in any forms of P2P media, please use IP blocking programs such as Peerguardian 2 or Protowall. Both of these programs will help protect you, although it is not 100% foolproof. It is better than using nothing.

****************

Versatile1 comment below:

I realize this STD story is very long, but you can see, I wanted to show the life of the P2P scene. Cracker Jack let me use part of his story, along with my explanations to get the message through. I think it worked quite nicely for the most part, don’t you think? :p I’m sure other people live in the P2P scene. To stay current and to learn more about P2P items, please refer to the links below:

Update 5-28-08:  I didn’t touch upon anonymous P2P, but it does exist.  Thanks to Commentor Ezzy, I have a new link for you undergrounders to try out: www.dargens.com.  It is a another program that lets you trade P2P files anonymously.  I have not tried this out, but it is worth checking if you want to try out something new.

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails – Releases New CD For Free – The Slip

Today is May 5th, and the leader singer of Nine Inch Nails really takes it up a notch by releasing a new CD for free download (available in 4 different formats) for fans and the like to download. Trent Rezor has always been a badass, and he really is a symbolic artist in the music industry. He was even part of the file trading website Oink! where people illegally shared music, even Trent himself.

More details on this release:

Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor released a 10-track, 43-minute studio recording, “The Slip,” through his Web site, nin.com, on Monday. It was made available for immediate download in four digital configurations, each of them free.

“Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years – this one’s on me,” Reznor wrote on the Web site shortly after midnight as he made the music available. He encouraged downloaders to share and remix tracks.

A CD and vinyl version of the album will be made available in July.

“The Slip” represents the fifth set of new material Reznor has released this year. In March, he released a four-volume set of instrumental music, “Ghosts I-IV,” through his Web site, at five different prices, including a free download of some of the tracks. After a week, he reported more than 700,000 orders and downloads, and revenue of $1.6 million.

The “Ghosts” announcement, also made without advance warning through his Web site, produced an avalanche of visitors and briefly crashed nin.com. Orders for “The Slip” appeared to go more smoothly. After submitting my email address, I received instructions and was able to download the disc within minutes.

Picking up where the reflective “Ghosts” left off, “The Slip” starts off with an atmospheric instrumental before veering into hard-rock territory. A string of tracks driven by live drumming and shrapnel-tossing guitar allow Reznor and his band to blow off some steam. The assault eventually gives way to contemplative piano atmospherics (the somber, nearly whispered “Lights in the Sky”) and eerie instrumentals (“Corona Radiata,” “The Four of Us are Dying”). The album has a raw, unpolished feel that suits the circumstances of its sudden release.

The self-release strategy has renewed interest in Nine Inch Nails’ career, and presents a striking vision of how artists may operate independently of the music business in the future.

Last October, Radiohead experimented with officially sanctioned free downloads through its Web site by offering its latest studio album, “In Rainbows,” at a price of the fans’ choosing. Radiohead did not announce the results of its digital experiment, then released the album last January as a CD through an independent label (ATO).

Reznor has taken that download strategy a step further, which suits his suddenly prolific music-making. From 1989 to 2006, Nine Inch Nails released five studio albums. Now without a record-label contract for the first time in 18 years, Reznor has equaled that output in the last three months.”

Source

************

Radiohead was the first to try this method, but it didn’t do to well for them I suppose. Radiohead refuses to release the numbers, but they claim it was good numbers. However, they pulled the online download link and went to physical CDs stating it was the only real way to make money. I guess the online method where people payed how much they think the music is worth didn’t work well for them. :P

Trent Reznor, on the other hand, tells it the way it is. More interestingly, the CD is called “The Slip”. Did you notice that Trent is “Giving Us The Slip?”. How ironic. Oh yea, the MP3 download also contains album art, and each song has its own cryptic album art imagery. Genius.

[STD] This Is The Beginning

Pirate on computer

Welcome guys to the very first ever STD (Savvy Tech Dude/Dudette) post. I’m still working with logistics as to how I want to organize this, and this probably won’t become a weekly thing, just a random thing as life goes on. The STD story is my attempt to share some insight into some of my practices, as well as others as to how they are using technology to make their life better, saving money, or perhaps bettering the environment.

With topics so broad, it be interesting how varied these stories will go. As time goes along, I’m asking for people to contribute, or if you want to be interviewed (I’ll protect your identity), then we can dig deeper. I am entertaining the idea of posting this concept to other forums where techies live, and see if I can even get a larger response. If it works out right, this will become a magnificent concept.

Without further ado, here is the first story – a background of Versatile1 and his journey with technology:

******************************************************

There is no doubt that the advent of computers have spawned a realm of underground activity, the most profound that has hit mainstream population is casual piracy. Don’t deny it, I’m sure most households out there engaged in it without them realizing it. Do you remember the audio cassette tapes? Did you try to tape music from the radio, or maybe from CDs that you borrowed?

How about copying VHS movies from one VCR to the other? I was one of those guys who engaged in this back in the day. In my house, we had at least 2 VCRs, so it made sense to find a good movie at the library or blockbuster or one of our friends and just copy the movie. Yes, it took about 2 hours to do it, but at least I could fit 3 VHS movies onto one VHS cassette if I used EP mode.

VHS Tape

Eventually DVDs came, and you couldn’t copy those straight off the bat because they have DVD encryption on it. Well, now there are programs that take off that DVD encryption so you can rip the movie to your hard drive and copy it or encode it to .AVI file for example. Now it is so easy to copy DVDs and encode them to .AVI files.

Now I don’t recommend this as it is dishonest, but there are people out there who have an account at Netflix, Blockbuster, Family Video, or your favorite video store and all they do is rent movies and copy them. Are you surprised? Heck, there might be some teenager kid in your neighborhood who does the same thing, or the equivalent by downloading movies and archiving them in some secret hard drive or burn them to some DVD binders.

Blockbuster

I assure you, piracy is found everywhere whether you realize it or not. Are you a parent of some high school kids? I am sure these high school kids have MP3 Players, and you think the music they put on their iPod is legit? I’m sure at least 90% of the music they are listening to it was illegally obtained. Heck, maybe the parents are doing it to. What I’m saying is even the nicest people are casually engaged in piracy because they believe its OK.

This single song is great, the rest of the album sucks, so buy it? Or it could be the other way. I download the album and listen to it. Album is great so I buy it. Worst case scenario: I download the album, it sounds great and I”ll keep it without buying the album. There are others who are just media pack mules and just download anything because they can. Are you one of these people? You are saving a buck, but it is the artists that lose is the saying.

I’m not here to say what is wrong or right. What I am saying is there are some underground practices that people are involving themselves under the impression nothing wrong will happen. Of course, you hear stories of college students now getting sued by the RIAA for downloading music, but now more and more of the college scene are going underground. They are starting to trade music internally on the school network, a place where the RIAA cannot get into.

There is so much left I want to talk about. I didn’t even dive into the subject of P2P, or torrents yet. Maybe I’ll let leave that for the next story.

Quick summary:

  • Piracy has always been around since technology became affordable for consumers.
  • People engage in casual piracy because it is convenient, and it saves them money. Individuals are starting to become tech savvy.
  • VHS piracy has always been around, and now DVD copying is the new rage.
  • The newest trend is downloading of music/movies from online or ripping them from the retail shop or friends. Obviously, this is wrong in terms of copyrights, but as a home user, who cares? This is the mentality that many people hold, and it will never stop.
  • RIAA is evil, and people are starting to wise up and getting their music in a smarter way.

Was this story helpful? Next time, I will dive a bit into how people are getting smarter in their technological means, and perhaps give you the reader insight into how you can do the same thing. Please leave a comment, or I’m under the belief no one cares enough about the STD story. Thanks!

Sources:

Wonder RIAA Picture: http://www.shedreamsindigital.net
Blockbuster picture: http://hoboken411.com
VHS: http://www.chromaservices.ca
Pirate Picture: http://www.cnn.com

Legally Ludicrous.

A close relative of mine recently found 2 interesting news reports in a nearby paper:

———-

[to protect the identities of those involved, substitute names will be used. use your sources to find them if you need to]

APRIL 10 – “John Doe, 17, [Town], was charged with burglary and theft on April 3.

On Aug. 11, 2007, [Town] police received a report that [Business], on [Street] in [Town], had been broken into and that an undetermined amount of cash had been stolen.

On further investigation, police found that the boards over an old window had been pried off.

On Nov. 29, 2007, Detective Sgt. [Sergeant] interviewed [John Doe] who reportedly admitted to breaking into [Business] and taking about $30 from the cash register.

He faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.”

———-

Here is a report from a newspaper in a next door city:

[again, the names have been changed]

APRIL 17 – “A [City] man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl.

[Offender], 33, formerly of [Address], was convicted of one count of first degree sexual assault of a child after a February jury trial in front of [County] Circuit Judge [Judge].

At that trial, [Offender] was found not guilty of charges of second-degree sexual assault of the same child.

At the April 1 sentencing, [Judge] also ordered eight years of extended supervision.

The assault of the girl took place in [Different City] in October 2000.”

———-

One wanted probably just wanted a video game. The other, well… And both get the same sentence.

Right now I’m writing a 12-page research document on similar, ridiculous incidents, however, regarding file sharing, the RIAA, MPAA, etc. Its purpose is to inform and open the minds of people with influence who are either out of control, like in this situation, or people who are uninformed. We all know how crazy the RIAA and MPAA are, as well as their supporters (includes some politicians; we love you Lieberman!……….)

I urge each and every one of you – do not make uninformed votes, write to your governors, make your voice heard.

“A water drop is little on it’s own, but without every single drop, there would be no water.”

First Sale Doctrine == $null? && RIAA == /diffused?

Hey faithful Underground readers. Normally I would post a life post, unfortunately it’s going to have to be delayed one week.

Currently, I am undergoing a project which collects the landmark events of digital history relating to piracy, laws on the electronic frontier, and the serious lack of competence and open minds in authority and political figures in today’s world.

I stumbled across this post yesterday, and felt it was my duty to link it and spread the news as much as possible. It’s yet again, a prime example of the ludicrous behaviors we see from the very people we entrust our sustenance and security to.

Essentially, Universal Media Group is [quoted] “saying that merely by putting some fine print on a CD, it can effectively ‘own’ that CD forever.”

I’ll let you read the article and decide for yourself.

http://svextra.com/blogs/gmsv/2008/04/uh_that_promo_copy_of_bad_we_sent_you_in_87_it_was_a_loaner_and_we_want_it_back.html

Another few day old piece of news, is posted here by the magnificent crew over at Ars Technica, about some interesting RIAA developments. This adds a great outlook on the recent Andersen vs. RIAA case from a few weeks ago:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080402-maine-law-students-try-to-derail-riaa-lawsuit-express.html

[ Sources: Article stumbled upon @ Silicon Valley.com ; LARGE PDF file of court case – EFF.org RIAA working diffusal – ArsTechnica.com ]

God speed, and Best wishes.

¥

Demonoid.com: What really happened.

Demonoid

This is a news report about the popular torrent site, demonoid.com

Recently, demonoid was shut down by the CRIA (Canadian). Demonoid was down for approx. 1 week, and is now back up with a slight modification: No Canadian ip may access demonoid. The CRIA sent a letter to demonoid telling them to block all Canadian ips from the mega torrent host.

“We received a letter from a lawyer represeting the CRIA, they were threatening with legal action and we need to start blocking Canadian traffic because of this.”

TorrentFreak, another popular website quoted on IRC that demonoid was really shut down by the CRIA. After demonoid is back up, it seems like TF was really correct.

For Canadian users of Demonoid, there seems to be an alternative that is easily found on Digg.com. You can use the Demonator proxy at http://demonator.jdbeitz.com/ ; However, this has not been tested at the labs at The Underground.

Originally, BREIN, a Dutch copyright rights protection firm claim victory over Demonoid. In BREIN Claims Victory over Demonoid (http://www.slyck.com/story1512_BREIN_Claims_Victory_over_Demonoid), BREIN has apparently been after the private torrent tracker for a while. BREIN is currently trying to shut down all torrent trackers in its area.

To quote from GeeksNotNerds (http://geeksnotnerds.com/zeekay/demonoid-done-singin-bittorrent-blues):

Demonoid.com is online again, after a few days of downtime. The cause? Legal threats from CRIA, the RIAA’s “outreach program” in Canada. This comes after the disastrous BREIN fiasco, only a few months ago, when Demonoid was forced to move their servers to Canada, in an attempt to find safe haven.

In a move that befuddles the mind, Demonoid is now blocking Canadian traffic. On a site hosted in Canada. Is this genius, or simply an absurd attempt to postpone the inevitable?”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,290 other followers