Meet DtecNet – RIAA’s New Anti-Piracy Partners

DtecNet, the anti-piracy outfit replacing MediaSentry as the RIAA's chief evidence collector, also operates in several other countries. The Danish company is working for the BPI in Britain in support of its drive to force a "3 strikes" regime, and helping in Australian investigations against alleged pirates. We take a closer look.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that the RIAA was dumping its anti-piracy partner, MediaSentry. After five years of legal action and mass lawsuits it decided its relationship with the notorious tracking company should come to an end. Some commentators believed that this signaled the end of the RIAA’s legal action against file-sharers, but that is definitely not the case.

The RIAA will now be working with DtecNet, a Danish anti-piracy tracking company which employs largely the same techniques as MediaSentry, but the aims will be slightly different in the majority of cases. The new tactic for the IFPI-headed music industry is to target ISPs instead, lobbying governments to implement the dreaded “3 strikes” or “graduated response” scheme reported so often in recent months.

Interestingly, DtecNet is far from an objective investigating firm. In fact, it originally stems from the anti-piracy lobby group Antipiratgruppen, which represents the music and movie industry in Denmark. There are more direct ties to the music industry though. Kristian Lakkegaard, one of DtecNet’s employees, used to work for the RIAA’s global partner, IFPI. Unsurprisingly, the RIAA has now chosen DtecNet to gather the evidence that will cost alleged filesharers their Internet connection.

One country in the thick of the “3 strikes” proposals is the UK. Led up by the BPI, the British music industry signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the country’s six largest ISPs. They agreed to send out letters to alleged pirates on behalf of the music industry, warning them that their illicit sharing habits had been monitored and they should discontinue their actions.

Of course, even without individual prosecutions, an anti-piracy company still has to do the tracking, but despite our requests the BPI refused to tell TorrentFreak how they were achieving this. Some months ago we put it to Matt Philips of the BPI that if their system was robust, there should be no problem in revealing it to us. Unfortunately he wouldn’t tell us who they were using or how they carried out their tracking. But of course, we found out in the end.

It turns out that in common with the RIAA and IFPI, the BPI are also using DtecNet. However, there appears to be no particular magic behind this company’s techniques. Just like most (if not all) anti-piracy outfits, they simply work from a list of titles their client wishes to protect and then hunts through known file-sharing networks to find them, in order to track the IP addresses of alleged infringers.

Their software appears as a normal client in, for example, BitTorrent swarms, while collecting IP addresses, file names and the unique hash values associated with the files. All this information is filtered in order to present the allegations to the appropriate ISP, in order that they can send off a letter admonishing their own customer, in line with their commitments under the MoU.

DtecNet is also active in Australia. Hired by Hollywood studios, DtecNet helped to build the case against ISP iiNet, by gathering evidence which they say proves that iiNet authorized the copyright-infringing activities of its own subscribers.

It is unclear why the RIAA finally dumped MediaSentry, but the fact that its techniques were heavily criticized in court couldn’t have helped. Renowned P2P expert Prof. Johan Pouwelse labeled RIAA expert Doug Jacobson’s reporting as “borderline incompetent”.

The switch to DtecNet is unlikely to prove any more fruitful, since no anti-piracy company is capable of identifying uploads to anyone but itself, which makes mass-infringement almost impossible to prove. It might be some time before DtecNet’s evidence is scrutinized in court but when it is, it will be a big surprise if it’s of a greater ‘quality’ than the data provided by MediaSentry.

Meet the new boss…..

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