BitTorrent Spammers Chosen to Spy On French Pirates

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The French anti-piracy outfit Trident Media Guard has been chosen by the entertainment industry to track and report illegal downloaders in France. The company, known globally for its pollution of BitTorrent and other file-sharing networks with fake data, will assist in the recently passed Hadopi three-strikes law.

tmgStarting in a few months, French file-sharers are set to be tracked and reported to the authorities in an attempt to lower the country’s piracy rate.

Under the new Hadopi law, alleged copyright infringers will be reported to a judge once they have received three warnings. The judge will then review the case and hand down any one of a range of penalties, from fines through to disconnecting the Internet connection of the infringer.

Trident Media Guard, the investigative company that will be responsible for tracking down alleged infringers, was presented to the public today. Interestingly enough this private company was not appointed by the government but by the entertainment industries, including the major record labels and movie studios.

Among file-sharers Trident Media Guard (TMG) is not a new name. In fact, thousands if not millions of people have run into them already as they are known to hinder illegal downloads by spreading fake data. For their ‘revolutionary’ anti-P2P technology they have submitted a patent application which is currently under review.

Aside from polluting file-sharing networks, the company will now also be responsible for tracking and reporting pirates to the authorities. TMG has the capacity to record up to 25,000 infringements a day, and according to initial estimates 10,000 offenders a day are expected to receive a warning.

TMG’s tracking technology will cover a wide range of file-sharing networks, with four of them being monitored as a priority. There is little doubt that BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella will be the major targets, but according to TMG it is also possible to monitor Rapidshare, newsgroups and streaming services.

How they will be able to monitor these non-P2P services remains a mystery for now, but it suggests some form of privacy invasion. Unlike with BitTorrent, a third party can’t simply see what a user is downloading as they do when they actively monitor a user’s P2P connections.

In the UK the ISP Virgin Media is trialling a technique which involves Deep Packet Inspection to monitor the level of illicit file-sharing across a percentage of its customer base.

Because systems like this are believed to breach the privacy of individual Internet users, the European Commission has been asked to review its legality.

Thus far no details have been published on the data gathering techniques of TMG, but considering the enormous opposition against the Hadopi law there is little doubt that their every move will be closely watched.


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