Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Anonymous filesharing just around the corner

AFP , SAN FRANCISCO

Software that will allow people to anonymously swap music and other files on the Internet could render copyrighting of songs and movies obsolete by year's end, a creator said.

A test version of the "darknet" software was made available on a Freenet Project website early Wednesday and a refined edition could soon be ready "for general consumption," Ian Clarke of Freenet said.

The software is intended to allow computer users worldwide to exchange files online in a way that hides them from industry investigators, vindictive politicians and others, Clarke said.

Music recording industry goliaths have fought to crush such renegade filesharing, which they claim fosters piracy of copyrighted material by musicians.

Darknet software has so far been treated as a tolerable bane by copyright defenders because programs have been difficult to use and limited to sharing between groups of no more than five or 10 computer users.

"We've devised a way you can have a darknet with potentially millions of users," Clarke said. "We hope we will have something suitable for launch this side of Christmas."

The Recording Industry Association of America won a recent US Supreme Court ruling that said online services that aid illicit file swapping are responsible accomplices in what amounts to theft.

Clarke said that Freenet is altruistically advancing technology and defending democratic ideals of unrestrained communication.

"Our goal has never been to encourage copyright infringement, however, you cannot have freedom of communication and protect copyright laws," he continued. "The two are mutually exclusive."

Darknet software is a natural progression in increased security for computer users, Clarke said. The program would let people weave clandestine global networks of peers they trust in an "invitation only" manner.

He predicted Freenet clandestine networks would undergo rapid "viral spreading."

Clarke equated the forming of covert online allegiances with the way French resistance fighters warily gauged who to trust during World War II.

"If you are foolish enough to establish a link to an agent of the Chinese government then the only person hurt by that would be you," said Clarke, who maintained Freenet was created to battle Internet tyranny in places such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

People who make music and films deserve to be compensated for their creations, but must wake up to the fact that copyrighting is an impotent remnant of a past era, said Clarke.

Demanding legal or political intervention to prop up copyrights is misguided, Clarke said.

"In a capitalist system, if things change, you adapt," Clarke said, advising studios to invest in technology instead of lawyers.

"If you are selling water in the desert and one day it starts to rain, what do you do?" he asked rhetorically. "Go to the government and get them to ban rain, or do you sell something else?"

If Freenet's darknet software lives up to its promise, then "techniques used today to trace individual users simply will not work," according to Doug Tygar, a computer professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tygar predicted the release of effective, wide-scale darknet software is inevitable.

"I think the music industry will have a strong challenge working in these kinds of environments," Tygar said, advising studios to evolve to survive.

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