Creative industries must persuade file sharers to go legit

News from TorrentFreak shows that the Moving Picture Association of America has put the usual suspects on its blacklist. Unusual other targets have appeared: Usenext – for Usenet – and the file sharing websites RapidShare and MegaUpload. If the MPAA brings its full legal hammer down, what’s it going to achieve?

Pretty much nothing, a source familiar with Anonymous tells TechEye. Usenet has been targeted by anti-piracy groups before but there will always be a replacement. Such is the nature of the internet: “It doesn’t matter what they do to any of them,” our source tells us, “as soon as one goes down, another will pop up a short time later.”

Look at the RIAA’s excitement about finally shutting down old school P2P client LimeWire. It was in the vein of Kazaa and eDonkey, long dead, a win almost ten years too late for the recording industry. Meanwhile usenet, bloggers, and closed torrent communities continue to leak all the latest releases, the kind of leaks that really manage to tick off the execs. 

With the closing of Oink, there were numerous other closed-wall torrent communities that opened up. If people have the means to share, there’s a good chance they will. “Removing the forum for the sharing won’t do much,” says our source.

And what about IRC? To the unaware, it’s a real staple. It stands for Internet Relay Chat and it appears at first glance a basic chatroom. But networks are huge and the cost of starting a server is relatively simple – file sharing is common on these and it is almost untouchable. 

“The more they go after people, the more security people will find to put in place to avoid being found. You can get anonymous proxies from a quick google search, or you can go on IRC and find free proxy providers. I provide bouncers, so IRC related only.

“They say no file sharing etc, but not many companies are going to chase you up on it unless it’s hosted on their servers. It’s peer to peer, it’s not their responsibility. Get a bouncer or IRCd server hosted in Pakistan and you’re golden. It’s what a lot of packet kiddies hide behind.

“Proxies, encryption, the lack of accountability for the servers hosting the sites, all of it makes it a lot harder for any authority to do anything. Without getting the guy’s hosting information from the bouncer provider, there’s not much you can do. And a lot of countries are highly unlikely to give out that information. Especially on privately run servers.”

Then what about all the high profile DDOS attacks on the likes of Ministry of Sound? It is hard to say, because as we have said before, a single person with access to a large enough botnet can easily cripple a website or server. And it’s important to remember Anonymous isn’t exactly a group – rather a signature that  can be used. It’s a convenient banner with roots at SomethingAwful and 4Chan, but effectively, anyone with a cause in common can claim it. It is easy for the media to latch onto.

But we have heard that it’s more likely any DDOS attacks or other variants targetted at those with strict piracy policies weren’t completely politically motivated. Yes, on the surface  it can be seen as a response to unjust grey-area legal action. Actually what annoys and agitates more is the fact that file sharing is always one step ahead of the lawmakers: a quick, clean and hard to trace DDOS, for example, is merely insult to injury.

“DDOS is a way to laugh at the people who are failing to do anything to combat file sharing communities. Widespread DDOS is pretty pointless. Just increasing security and anonymity would be enough of a f*ck you, I think.”

As for having a go at RapidShare, it was given the all clear by the Higher Regional Court Dusseldorf earlier this year. It decided that the company can not be held accountable for the nature of files and copyright infringement uploaded by users. If the MPAA wants to press ahead further, it’ll have a tough battle.

Really, the best thing for the industries to focus on now is an easy and profitable alternative. Legal, cheap mp3s online was a good start for the Average Joe, but there is still a large untapped ecosystem of hardcore file sharers who will need much more persuading. And in the meantime, shutting down websites or content platforms isn’t the way to go – the creative industries must persuade the cynical.