Copyright thuggery (contd)

Revision3 is an Internet television network that creates and produces a variety of popular niche shows like Diggnation and The GigaOm Show which are distributed using BitTorrent. Over the Memorial Day weekend, Revision3 was slammed by a Denial-of-Service attack which overwhelmed the company’s servers and disabled both its video service and internal networks for more than three days. The culprit was MediaDefender, an outfit that describes itself as “the leading provider of anti-piracy solutions in the emerging Internet-Piracy-Prevention industry,” which, working on behalf of clients like the record and movie industries, has a history of launching DoS attacks on sites allegedly distributing copyright content.

That’s the background. GMSV continues the story

In a post today, Jim Louderback of Revision3, tells the technical tale as entertainingly as a mystery story, complete with disturbing discoveries, and it’s worth a complete read. But the capsule version is that MediaDefender had been secretly using a backdoor to inject thousands of bogus files into Revision3’s BitTorrent tracking system as part of its pirate hunting efforts, and when Revision3 found and closed the door, not knowing how it was being used, MediaDefender’s system responded with the scorched-earth attack that shut down a legitimate business. “It’s as if McGruff the Crime Dog snuck into our basement, enlisted an army of cellar rats to eat up all of our cheese, and then burned the house down when we finally locked him out – instead of just knocking on the front door to tell us the window was open,” says Louderback. Even more galling — MediaDefender admitted responsibility freely and apologized, not for misusing Revision3’s system in the first place, but for the misbehavior of its thwarted server. Being that DoS attacks are a crime in the U.S. under a variety of statutes, Louderback has called in the FBI and is also getting much encouragement to file a civil suit.

Yep. I’d contribute to a fund that would pay for it.

Jim Lounderback’s admirably restrained post is worth reading in full. It ends:

All I want, for Revision3, is to get our weekend back – both the countless hours spent by our heroic tech staff attempting to unravel the mess, and the revenue, traffic and entertainment that we didn’t deliver.

If it can happen to Revision3, it could happen to your business too. We’re simply in the business of delivering entertainment and information – that’s not life or death stuff. But what if MediaDefender discovers a tracker inside a hospital, fire department or 911 center? If it happened to us, it could happen to them too. In my opinion, Media Defender practices risky business, and needs to overhaul how it operates. Because in this country, as far as I know, we’re still innocent until proven guilty – not drawn, quartered and executed simply because someone thinks you’re an outlaw.

In a way, this is an old story. At its core is the content owners’ fanatical intolerance of any technology that might adversely impact on their business models. The fact that BitTorrent (and P2P generally) happens to be a strategically important technology for society (it is, after all, what enables us to harness the power of all those PCs connected to the Net — what Clay Shirky called ‘the dark matter of the Internet’) doesn’t matter to them. They’re the spiritual heirs of the men who wanted to ban the telephone because it enabled their wives to speak to men to whom they hadn’t been properly introduced. They seek to persuade legislators that all P2P technology is evil, by definition — their definition. I remember how, many years ago, Larry Lessig arrived in his office in Stanford to find that the university’s network police had disconnected his computer from the network. Why? Because they had discovered that he was using P2P software. The fact that Larry used P2P technology to distribute copies of his writings — to which he, and he alone, owned the copyright — had never occurred to them.