Imagine the scenario – you’re the head of a multi-million dollar label, someone has convinced you that your business is losing money due to file-sharing. What do you do? Call in the Ghostbusters? Or do what lots of companies do and call in the likes of MediaDefender to help them. As no anti-piracy system can do anything other than make a very small impact on file-sharing, it’s a far from satisfactory solution.
Early in 2005, established anti-piracy company Viralg of Finland burst onto the P2P scene with a staggering claim: With their technology it was possible to end 99% of all file-sharing.
In 2004, Viralg listed Electronic Arts, Vivendi, Microsoft Game Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, Atari, Nintendo, Codemasters and THQ as just some of their customers. They were among the nominees for the ICT Prize 2005 and the winner of the Venture Cup business plan competition.
The portfolio certainly made them appear impressive at the time, so when an eBay auction caught the eye today offering to sell Viralg’s technology for a cool $1,000,000, TorrentFreak became a little curious.
So what’s on offer? Looks like Viralg’s ‘intellectual property’ in the form of some patent applications:
Viralg supplies technology aimed at preventing sharing of illegal content such as music, movies, GPS maps, games and software from being shared over P2P networks such as Gnutella. Viralg technology is in widespread use by record companies in Finland (90% of customers) and in the other Scandinavian countries. Technology has generated turnover of over 500.000 US dollars. The patent applications for sale cover the necessary key technology for the only possible effective protection against illegal P2P sharing. Depending on the source illegal P2P causes damages of 4 to 12 billion US dollars to media companies per year.
So should likely buyers (unhappy MediaDefender customers perhaps?) invest in this technology?
Viralg claimed to be able to create a corrupted file but with a working hash, giving it the appearance of a genuine file. As people downloaded they got a selection of genuine and corrupt parts sent to them rendering the final file useless. Although partially effective on the FastTrack network (KaZaA [R.I.P] )years ago, Viralg’s offer of 40 hours of training to use the system still doesn’t cut it in today’s BitTorrent dominated file-sharing world.
Before Prince gets any fancy ideas about buying this for the Web Sheriff to use against The Pirate Bay, this outdated system is pretty useless against BitTorrent, which renders its ‘Patented Virtual Algorithm’, well – useless.
TorrentFreak spoke to Dr. Ir. Johan Pouwelse, researcher on P2P technology at Delft University of Technology, who explained why: “Bittorrent uses a separate hash for every 1-4 MByte. This means you can still exploit the weakness in the protocol by sending bad data. However, clients are now generally so smart that they only accept maximum 1 fake 1-4MB block from an IP address.”
Of course to corrupt lots of files, you need lots of presence on file-sharing networks (servers, accounts, the whole MediaDefender-style setup) so the $1m tag is just the tip of an enormous iceberg.
Maybe some of the sales statistics will tempt prospective buyers? The system has been running since 2003, and in that time it generated a turnover of $500,000. Potential buyers are likely to be more interested in the bottom line, especially now that the bottom has fallen out of the FastTrack network.
Anyone with a bulging bank balance needing a guarantee of being able to corrupt files on the FastTrack network (and is unaware that MediaDefender’s tools are available for free) should hurry over to the eBay auction right now, there’s not long left to go – for the auction or Viralg