Pirate Bay to offer improved annonymity to bit torrent users


As the Pirate Bay trial comes to its conclusion, bit torrent has once again been dragged, kicking and screaming into the light. The defendants of the case could spend their time worrying about the outcome, but instead they’ve channeled their efforts into adding more protection to keep the long arm of the law away from those who use the service for nefarious purposes. They’ve developed a new service called IPREDATOR, which promises to be better at keeping users’ details a secret than current VPN services.

The service is currently in private beta, and will be gradually rolled out to all users some time around April 1st. The significance of the date isn’t thanks to April Fool’s Day, but because that’s the date when Sweden’s contraversial new Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) come into effect, which grant copyright holders more rights to get their hands on file sharers’ details. You’ve got to hand it to the Pirate Bay – they’ve got a lot of chutspa.

The Revolution Will Be Streaming


This is my 1,000th post on Tech Digest. My first was about Robopong, and I have no idea what my last will be about, but this one’s about the economics of free music, which is a subject that I’ve touched on many times while writing here. It’s about how a free download turned me into a massive fan of a band.

Yesterday, personalized streaming radio site Last.fm announced on Twitter, that its free downloads page was back. It’s a page, which can be found here, that lists a bunch of tracks that bands have decided to give away, for promotional purposes. According to the old thinking prevalent among record companies, a download = a lost sale. In this case, a download led me to a whole lot more than that.

The download in question is a song called, wonderfully, “The Revolution Will Be Streaming“, a nod to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 classic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised“. It’s by an American post-rock band that I hadn’t previously heard of called Saxon Shore.

My eye was caught by the title, and I downloaded it on the off-chance I’d like it. I did like it, a lot, and after a few listens, I headed over to Amazon. The band’s got a few tracks available on the download store, but the album featuring “The Revolution Will Be Streaming”, “The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore” wasn’t. So I bought the CD instead. On import.

Because the album has to be sent over from the states, I’m looking at a couple of weeks before I can listen to the damn thing. So I checked Spotify. The band isn’t there, sadly. I realized that when it does arrive, all I’m going to do is rip it to high-bitrate MP3 and put in on my Zune, so my next step was to head right over to the Pirate Bay and see if I could find it.

Turns out that the site doesn’t (at the time of searching, anyway). Luckily I’ve got other sources, so I grabbed it from another tracker and this morning on the bus on the way into the office, a bizarre and unexpected diversion around the back roads of King’s Cross was made all the more lovely by Saxon Shore’s wonderful album.

The band doesn’t seem to be touring at the moment, but when they show up in London, I’ll definitely be there and I’m fully intending to drag down as many of my post-rock-friendly friends as I can. I might well buy a t-shirt, and when I’ve fully digested this album, if I’m still loving it then there’s a good chance I’ll buy some of the older ones.

Now, I’m not pretending that there’s millions of people doing what I did above. Nor am I pretending that this would work just as well if every band in the world started giving away tracks. But if Saxon Shore hadn’t given away that song, then they wouldn’t have gained me as a fan. That’s why free music works, why music blogs are the best way to find new bands, and why free music isn’t the devaluing of art that some claim it is.

I welcome your comments and thoughts on the above, but before you do, go listen to the track in question. You can stream it from Last.fm here. The revolution will indeed be streaming, it would appear.

Last.fm accused of handing U2 album leak user data to the RIAA


If you’ve been listening to a leaked copy of U2’s “No Line on the Horizon”, then it’s possible that the RIAA know exactly who you are, if you believe Techcrunch who got all in a tizzy on Friday over the suggestion that Last.fm has been handing over listener data to the record company.

Last.fm immediately denied the accusations, saying:

I’d like to issue a full and categorical denial of this. We’ve never had any request for such data by anyone, and if we did we wouldn’t consent to it.

Of course we work with the major labels and provide them with broad statistics, as we would with any other label, but we’d never personally identify our users to a third party – that goes against everything we stand for.

The RIAA followed that up, with:

“[We’re] not sure where that rumor came from. It’s not true.”

So you’re probably safe for now, but given how much personal data many people share on Last.fm, if you’re one of the first with a copy of a leaked album, then you might want to be careful about scrobbling that fact. Just a thought.

New Zealand's guilt-on-accusation copyright law postponed


New Zealand, as we’ve previously reported, wants to take a hard line against people accused of copyright infringement by cutting them off without any attempt to ascertain whether they’re actually guilty.

The copyright owners argue that this is necessary, because successfully prosecuting someone is a time-consuming and costly business. Of course, copyright owners have a history of falsely identifying acccused infringers.

As a result, there’s been uproar in the country, with many across the world “blacking out” their social network profile pictures to draw attention to the law, due to come into force this Saturday (28th Feb 09).

Thanks to their actions, and the media spotlight placed on the country from across the world, the law has now been postponed. Although it’s only postponed for a month, it’s still a major victory for consumers, who’ll now have a chance to input on a code of practice for the implementation of the law.

If no agreement is reached on the code of practice, then the law will be suspended further, and the government has also promised a review of the effectiveness of the law six months in, to see if it’s had any effect on volumes of filesharing. My guess? It won’t.

(via Stuff.co.nz)

Pirate Bay trial begins in Sweden


The four operators of the Pirate Bay, the internet’s premier Bittorrent tracker, began their trial today in Sweden, accused of 33 cases of copyright infringement. According to charges filed by the public prosecutor, they’re “promoting other people’s infringements of copyright laws”, a reference to the fact that the site simply links to copyrighted content – it doesn’t actually host anything itself.

Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi and Carl Lundström face a fine of £100,000 and up to two years in prison, but the real effect will be on the future of file-sharing on the internet. A victory for the Pirate Bay would set back the cause of content-owners world wide.

The Pirate Bay is calling the event a “Spectrial” – a cross between a spectacle and trial. They’re trying to make the reporting of the case as open and transparent as possible, with audio and video streams available in multiple languages.

The Pirate Bay has launched a blog – http://trial.thepiratebay.org/ – though it’s currently struggling under heavy traffic, and it’s encouraging people to use the #spectrial hashtag when discussing it on Twitter. Blogs like ZeroPaid and TorrentFreak are also covering the trial in fine detail.

What I find most baffling about the whole affair, though, is that the authorities think that they can make a dent in file-sharing volumes by shutting down the Pirate Bay. If that was to happen, then 99.5% of its users would just move to another site and carry on as if nothing had happened.

Even if Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi and Carl Lundström go to jail for this, it’s highly unlikely that the site will go down for longer than 24 hours or so. I strongly suspect that the operators have backup plans in place just for that very event.

Still, I suppose the Swedish government has to appear as if its doing something to placate the content-owners whose business is crashing all around them. I just hope that they have some sense of reality about the game of whack-a-mole that they’re playing.

Oscars screeners appear online in six days, on average


Six days. That’s all it takes for most Oscar screeners to make it onto the internet after they’re sent out to Academy members. Andy Baio at Waxy.org has compiled a massive spreadsheet of the dates at which different films appear online.

This year, on nomination day, 23 out of 26 films were already available in DVD quality. Australia and Changeling leaked shortly after. Only one film – Rachel Getting Married – still remains unavailable at the time of writing. I suspect that the pirates are only going to see that as a challenge. Definitely check out the full list, because it’s shocking how quickly some of these movies leak.

Waxy.org (via Crunchgear)

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GDrive gets official description, looking more real by the day


Inspired no doubt by recent mentions of the GDrive in various bits of code, aspiring hackers are now trawling through Google’s entire codebase looking for references to the mythical cloud storage service. As a result, more nuggets of info are surfacing, including this description of the service:

“GDrive provides reliable storage for all of your files, including photos, music and documents. GDrive allows you to access your files from anywhere, anytime, and from any device – be it from your desktop, web browser or cellular phone.”

Interesting bits: “All your files” and “music” are mentioned. Maybe they’re not bothered about intellectual property issues after all. Still no mention of the originally rumoured “unlimited”, though.

(via Google Operating System)

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GDrive rumours solidify – code spotted in Google Apps


The rumours around Google’s GDrive, which we reported on the other day, look to be gaining steam. First, there was a mysterious menu option appearing in Picasa for Mac, and now code’s been added to Google Apps that references a ‘webdrive’. There’s even a little icon for it.

I’ll reiterate my comment from the other post – this isn’t likely to be ‘unlimited’ storage. People have too much crap for Google to allow that, and most of that crap is dubiously-acquired intellectual property like movies, games and music. Google’s had problems with that with YouTube, so I find it unlikely that they won’t put restrictions on the service.

More likely, we’ll see a limited storage, limited file upload service that doesn’t do very much more than what you can already do with Google Docs and Google Mail. When will we see it? My money’s on ‘fairly soon’.

(via Google Operating System)

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YouTube trying out video downloads?


If you’ve ever enjoyed a YouTube video and then thought “I want to take this with me wherever I go”, then prepare to be mildly pleased. YouTube appears to be experimenting with offering downloads of videos. The first to gain this feature have been the videos on Obama’s ChangeDotGov YouTube channel.

The videos come in a decent format – MPEG4, using the H.264 codec. That’s the same as the same videos that you get on the iPhone portal. The capability to download video has been offered by competing sites like Vimeo for ages, but YouTube has avoided it – presumably to quieten the intellectual property issues involved, though anyone can download YouTube videos with a simple Google search.

It’s likely that content owners will soon see an option as to whether to allow downloads of their videos or not. I hope that many do, and that those who don’t begin to feel the pressure to allow it. Just don’t expect to be able to download a million music videos tomorrow.

YouTube (via Ars Technica)

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YouTube shoots self in foot – mutes all video with 'unauthorized copyrighted music'


In a strange, sudden and unannounced move, YouTube has suddenly muted a bunch of videos that it claims have ‘unauthorized copyrighted music’. Under the video, it says “This video contains an audio track that has not been authorised by all copyright holders. The audio has been disabled.”

Two things bother me about this. Firstly, the users are going to absolutely detest it. They’ll leave in their droves for YouTube’s competitors. I don’t understand why YouTube would agree to something as ridiculous as this – they’re not stupid, and I’m sure they realize what the effects will be.

Secondly, how does this square with the deals YouTube made two years ago, when labels made their content “available for inclusion in sanctioned consumer uploads”. This move seems to run 180 degrees in the reverse to what those deals aimed to facilitate. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one, and update the post when I hear more and/or YouTube releases some sort of official statement.

(via Media Futurist)

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