Anti-Piracy Outfit to Spy On Usenet, Punish Legitimate Purchasers

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It's normal these days for anti-piracy companies to target P2P protocols and applications such as BitTorrent, LimeWire and eDonkey. Targeting the newsgroups or Usenet is fairly unusual but add that to the fact that one particular company isn't going after pirates but the original content purchaser, this approach seems relatively unique.

In a recent article we introduced Usenet or newsgroups as they are sometimes known. Without doubt, Usenet is one of the most secure ways to download and share material and although it costs a little money to access a premium Usenet provider each month, many consider it’s worth it – especially considering the blisteringly fast download speeds, massive range of content and no RIAA or MPAA looking over one’s shoulder.

However, a ‘new’ anti-piracy technology is claimed to have arrived in town, one which will not focus on traditional file-sharing networks but will target Usenet. The makers of the system acknowledge that trying to shut down Usenet in the way that BitTorrent and eDonkey sites have been shut down in the past, is totally not an option. There are thousands of newsgroups with millions of people sharing content with others almost anonymously and even the anti-piracy company says that Usenet is virtually impossible to regulate. Not a good environment for anti-piracy enforcement. So how does it work?

Apparently, TriMark is a “state-of-the-art one of a kind encryption technology” which will be used to track content made available on Usenet. It’s believed it’s a type of digital fingerprint embedded in files which can uniquely identify the original purchaser of the content, usually audio tracks. The claim is that the identification code maintains it’s integrity, despite copying or ripping. TriMark will then scan newsgroups for content that contains these embedded security codes. It will then supposedly identify the original purchaser of the material who will be pursued for damages relating to the claimed lost sales from every illegal copy spawned from his officially purchased copy.

Just this week it was revealed that some iTunes tracks contain the personal details of the person who downloaded the track, prompting privacy concerns. Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “At a minimum, many would have appreciated it if Apple had notified them in some conspicuous way. Even after the recent media attention, it’s safe to assume that the vast majority of iTunes customers still have no idea that their names and email addresses are embedded in these files.” It’s unclear if people purchasing TriMark ‘protected’ tracks will be informed that their details are included in material they purchase.

The system is destined to roll out in 2008 when it is expected to make zero impact on the amount or type of material shared on Usenet.


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