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Hadopi Law Against P2P Rejected (For Now…)

Interesting goings on in the Hémicycle (French Parliament), after the text of the Loi Creation et Internet (aka Hadopi) had been passed on to the Commission Mixte Paritaire (made up of seven deputies and seven senators), it was significantly stiffened. As part of an emergency legislative procedure the CMP  has the right to elect what it wants in the text, and is not bound to include amendments voted either by deputies or senators. The version of the law signed off on by the CMP required those who had their internet connection cut off for ‘illegal downloading’ would even have to continue paying for the service. In addition, there is no guarantee that those sanctioned  will not be pursued also under regilar copyright legislation, entailing penalies and jail, the HADOPI could amount to the imposition of a form of double punishment. Furthermore the duration of suspension of service was extended from one to two months; far longer than the ‘two to three weeks’ recently suggested by Christine Albanel.

The law went to the Senate where it was duly passed without much comment. next stop, thursday afternoon at the National Assembly. So yesterday there were just a handful of deputies present for the vote which was presumed to be a card-stamping exercise, after all Sarkozy’s UMP have a massive majority. But shortly before the vote, a handful of Socialist deputies entered the room creating a de facto majority for the opposition, the result: 15 in favour, 21 against. Hadopi defeated. (By the way, where were the other 541 deputies?)

Christine Albanel and the whips of the UMP are crying foul, claiming that the opponents had laid a trap, hidden there deputies and broken some unspoken rule. But the result remains the same. what now?

Sarkozy can, and almost certainly will, demand a second reading of the law after the Easter holiday which finishes April 28. Next time it’s certain that the UMP will get a lot more bums on seats. But there will have to be another debate, and the text will be that which entered the CMP rather than that which exited it. In addition this is an extremely unpopular law in France, and there may be more defections as majority deputies contemplate the price they may pay for this when they return to the electorate.

To see my more recent posts on Hadopi, click here.


April 10, 2009 Posted by | copyright, France, HADOPI, law, p2p | 1 Comment

Three Strikes Law Against P2P in France

“A Little Courteline, a Little Kafka and a Lot of Alfred Jarry.”*

Having spent some time in France recently, my attention was inevitably drawn towards the new measures proposed to stop filesharing. Whatever form the system eventually takes will be at least a template for laws elsewhere. Two years ago the content industry believed that the basis for such a law could be drawn from the text of the EU  Directive on Electronic Commerce. They argued that the safe-harbour protection for copyright liability provided to information services therein was premised on the drawing up of a ‘best practices’ code which ought include clamping down on unauthorised transfers. This theory did not gain any momentum. Lucky then that the Sarkozy administration sought to make their dream a reality…


Two years after it became the industry’s solution of choice to the inability to prevent file-sharing, legislation on the ‘three-strikes’ law or ‘graduated response’ measures is now being debated in the French Parliament under emergency procedure. The final text will be determined by a Commission empowered to pick and choose between amendments. In addition to sanctioning non-conformist users, the law mandates experimentation with systems for content recognition and filtering.

The Loi Creation et Internet, commonly referred to as ‘HADOPI’ after the administrative authority it will create (Haute autorité pour la diffusion des oeuvres et la protection des droits sur internet),  originated in a report overseen by Denis Olivennes, then CEO of FNAC – France’s major online and high-street retailer of books, music and DVDs. Author of the elegantly titled “Free is Theft: When Piracy Kills Culture.”(La gratuité, c’est le vol : Quand le piratage tue la culture, 2007 ), M. Olivennes, something of a Socialist Party mandarin, is now editor of the Nouvel Observateur.

This law amends the 2006 DADVSI legislation which provided punishments for copyright infringement of up to 300,000 euro in fines and three years in jail – sanctions never enforced. That text was also controversial for its provisions relative to DRM, whose popularity one notices is in distinct decline, at least in the music industry.

Filmmakers Big Up the Law!

Proponents of the law, and there are many amongst the grandees of French politics and culture, claim that the film and audiovisual industry is in peril – a tsunami in the words of culture minister Christine Albanel – a thesis perhaps unproven given that cinema visits increased by 2.5% last year in France (6.5% according to other sources) and DVD sales rose in several quarters.

According to ‘industry research’ 45% of french internet users download unauthorized copies daily [1], and the anti-piracy organization ALPA claim that the result is 450,000 films downloaded illegally each day (2). Director Luc Besson thought the figure was 500,000 daily and announced in Le Monde that watching pirated movies was now recognised as a crime by everyone, ‘what a bad image’ he mourned ‘for the country of the Rights of Man’ (!). He went on to demand the extension of the offensive to any company ‘complicit’ in the existence of sites streaming films which he compared with drug dealers; hosting services, advertisers, the lot of them should be pursued (3). Beemotion, Canadian-based french language site, and target of his delirious jeremiad, was closed within days. So much for the wild west of the internet.

Correlation or Causation?

But to examine one example studied in the anti-piracy association’s research, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis, – purportedly downloaded 620,000 times each month between February and June last year – the causal relationship between ‘piracy’ and falls in cinema revenues doesn’t quite hold water; 20 million cinema-goers stumped up for tickets,  2 million copies sold on DVD within two weeks of its release – in fact it’s the most successful French film in history.

Nonetheless, several film-makers (Tavernier, Corneau and others) have rallied around the law, taking umbrage at Jacques Attali‘s claim that the law was a case of artists being manipulated by the media conglomerates, was ‘scandalous and ridiculous’ in content, and that artists ought to seize the chance to implement a favorable version of the content flatrate.

Musicians in the Fray

But as usual the debate is more spirited and fractious in the music sphere, and perhaps… confused. Cindy Sander, winner of TV talent show, made her single available on the net in her own words ‘for illegal download’ (but what does she mean!) prior to winning and signing with a major. She now thinks that each of those downloads is equivalent to a lost sale, and has appealed to her fans to ‘stop downloading music, you’re killing us!’ (4). One could have been forginven for thinking that the publicity might have helped her build a reputation…

Anyway, other voices are out there as well. Gary Greu, frontman of Marseille’s most popular band Massilia Sound System,  on being asked if he did not rely upon the money from music sales ‘to eat’ responded:
“Money?… every time we sell a CD I earn 15 cents, so if we sell 30,000 I’ll leave it to you to do the figures. I can give away my tunes, it’s not with that that I eat! Universal, Carrefour, FNAC, they eat through that. We just get ripped off and have to find other means to live from rather than record sales. We do concerts.”

He goes on, “downloading helps us, it gets a lot more people to our gigs. When i was young, I had just 15 pieces of vinyl in all, if I could have downloaded it wouldn’t have been so annoying!” Although he regrets how MP3s sound ‘they have no frequencies, high or low’ and he predicts indigestion “you can get everything in one go, but with culture you needs proceed progressively”. (5)

Substance of the Text as Proposed

Under the proposals, internet users will be disconnected should they fail in their ‘obligation to ensure that an internet connection is not used for the purposes of reproducing, displaying, making available or communicating to the public works or objects protected by copyright or by a neighboring right without the authorization of the rights-holder.’ Rightsholders will be able to deliver the IP addresses of offending users to the HADOPI, who will identify them and then send a warning letter. In  case of recurrence, another letter will be sent, and on the third occasion the internet connection will be disconnected. Suspension of service is foreseen as a temporary measure – two to three weeks according to the Minister (6) .


This inadequacy of legal oversight may bring the law into conflict with the telecoms package winding it way through the EU  should it include an amendment stating that users’ rights cannot be prejudiced without a legal decision, a provision overwhelmingly supported in EU Parliament in September, rejected France at the European Council,  and which will be revisited in April. This position was recently supported by the conclusions of the Lambrindis Report issued by the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament in February.

The Authority charged with operating the scheme was initially budgeted at 6.7 million euros, based partially on an estimate of ISP costs in cooperating (they agreed to the plan providing they did not have to pay it) of between 2-3 million euros, but apparently the actual figure will be more like 10 million per provider (7).

HADOPI itself is shaping up to be a government quango with a close ear to industry. Amendments to include user representatives were rejected, as was another barring former employees from the music industry until five years after terminating their employment.


The key premise of the law – that piracy is responsible for falls in sales – has also come under attack from, amongst others, the Consumer Association Que Choisir (UFC) and the French Data Protection Agency (CNIL).

UFC  have pressed for resolution of the problem through a ‘creative contribution’ (8) which would see artists receive a cut of advertising revenue on sites distributing their works – amendments were moved by the Socialist Party-  and a system of revenue-sharing for streaming services inspired by that applied to radio, seen as fairer to artists than present arrangements governing CD sales.

Analysts appear to have no expectation that this reform will eliminate piracy, but rather that its purpose is function both as pedagogical intervention and as support for the introduction of legal services. Such packages could follow the example of Nokia where a hardware provider bundles music with its phones (whose cost is built into the phone itself) and there is talk of Orange offering analogous packages.
Given the scale of Sarkozy’s majority, and the support for the law by socialist party senators and former minister Jack Lang, the bills passage will not be prevented by a division in party groups, but there is division within the governing UMP.

In the last week several UMP members have proposed suspending the introduction of disconnections until 2011, and replacing them by  fines of 38 euros per session/work (9). Minister for Digital Economy Nathalie Kosciusko-Morize appears unconvinced that sanctions are a relevant path to pursue at all, and has described the current lack of alternative legal services as prehistoric’ (10).

In a blunter tones the Quadrature du Net campaign, establishes to oppose the three strikes proposal, dismisses the law as a ‘bad answer to a fake problem.’


  • Christain Paul’s description, Socialist Party Opponent of the bill.
  • To see my more recent posts on Hadopi, click here.

    (1) Back to post 1

    (2), the reserach was carried out by Thompson and Advestigo, and claimed that this number constituted only 40% of the requests made; 60% of attempts to download were unsuccessful. In any industry figures are useful for entertainment purposes only.




    (8) For further detail on this french inflection of the content flatrate see the book by Philippe Aigrain,, In substance similar to the “Global License’ proposed during the Dadvsi debates, it would require payment by users of a monthly fee on top of their bandwidth bill, to be shared amongst artists; those users would then be allowed  to exchange files as they please.



    March 31, 2009 Posted by | /, enforcement, HADOPI, law, p2p | | 3 Comments

    With Roger Wallis in Stockholm

    Amongst the denizens of the filesharing universe, Roger Wallis is the man of the hour. A successful composer, who in recent years has dedicated himself to researching the politics and economics of the music industry, he took the stand at the trial of The Pirate Bay in Stockholm to argue that the aggregate effect of sharing music was to increase musicians’ revenues by raising  income from live performance. Needless to say, this point of view did not ingratiate him with representatives of the music industry, who attempted to question his credibility as a researcher.

    At the conclusion of his appearance, on being asked by the judge whether he would like to be reimbursed for his expenses, he responded only that he would like some flowers to be sent to his wife. What happened next is already folklore: supporters of the Pirate Bay inundated his wife with hundreds of bouquets, and when they discovered that there was an excess of flowers they started sending chocolates, donations to charities and letters of appreciation.

    Simon and I spent a couple of hours in the Wallis home today shooting an interview, which I will post sections of as soon as possible, as well as providing some links to his work. In the meantime here’s a photo of him at the piano playing us a couple of bars. The eagle-eyed will note the musical scores bearing his name on the piano easel.

    March 2, 2009 Posted by | copyright, material culture, p2p, Pirate Bay, social cooperation, steal this film, Sweden | 5 Comments

    Spectrial: Showdown In Stockholm

    For the last two weeks I’ve been in Stockholm for the criminal copyright infringement case against the Pirate Bay, or rather four individuals who are being treated as the principal agents behind the site.

    Commenting on the events in court appears superfluous due to the extraordinary intensity of online coverage, between blog posts, live streams, live broadcast radio, incessant updates on micro-blogging tools and whatnot, this trial must mark some sort of a watershed. The defendants are online all day in the court room, witnesses sometimes have their computers with them as they give evidence, and the courthouse has provided free wifi. And that’s just the real time media aspect to this event.

    Legally speaking the situation is pretty foggy; as widely reported the prosecution dropped half the charges almost as soon as the trial had commenced, and has generally made blunders when dealing with the technical questions – which of course are legion.

    But impressive work by the defense on the technological questions will be to little avail unless the court accepts the crux of their defense, that the site operated as an information service that allowed users to share files with one another, and consequently that the Pirate Bay is entitled to a safe harbour from liability under the Swedish implementation of the EU eCommerce Directive, which protects ‘mere conduits’ who do not ‘initiate data transfers’ themselves. Or so it seems to me.

    Irrespective of the result, most commentators are convinced that the result will be appealed by the defeated party, and that this case will eventually reach Sweden’s highest court. This wouldn’t surprise me, as the Pirate Bay/file-sharing issue is a primed grenade here, uniting as it does the younger population behind the defendants, and if we are to believe the prosecution, against the law. Sweden is a fairly quiet place, rather orderly, and highly consensus-focused; a decision alienating huge tranches of the youth would not be taken enthusiastically. On the other hand, the US Trade Representative and the various media lobbies in Washington DC won’t let the Swedish government off the hook on what they see as the obligation to help impede the free distribution of the movies, games and music. So whatever the outcome, there’ll be problems for the government.

    Closing arguments begin on Monday, and I’ll stay on for some time afterwards to conduct other interviews. Eventually there’ll be another version of Steal This Film, a new iteration 2.5 was just released to coincide with the trial, and includes some footage shot with two of the defendants, Brokep and Tiamo, in Stockholm last year.

    February 28, 2009 Posted by | /, enforcement, european union, p2p, Pirate Bay, steal this film, Sweden | Leave a comment

    Anthropology of P2P: “A Day in the Life…”

    Much hullabaloo has been raised by the disregard of internet users towards the sanctity of copyright law. “A Day in the Life…” is concerned rather with the anthropological change in how we discover culture, and how we use it to relate to others. As individuals join communities more closely attuned to their interests than the commercial offering, their choices change, the economy of time of their daily life shifts and new problems emerge. Following a participant in one of these communities through a 24 hour cycle, the text explores these processes and their social spaces, taking a snapshot of 21st century subcultures with the occasional nod to the past.

    A first version was prepared for Transmediale in Berlin earlier this year, and was then revised and abridged for a performance organised by EXGAE/Conservas and their gala event Los Oxcars in Barcelona last night.

    A Day in the Life…
    It’s midnight in Berlin. Not a fact of particular importance in the global 24 hour all-you-can-eat buffet that is the file-sharing world. The community is always awake, and the participants are as likely to be up at 6AM GMT+1 in Britain or Taiwan. The significance in it being midnight is simply that it allows us to measure how much activity takes place in one small file-sharing community, and to watch the daily life of the community during a 24 hour cycle.

    I browse the list of files available, organised according to most recently posted: in the last 24 hours 55 new files have been uploaded, 40 older files have been bumped back up the list, having been reseeded by someone who had previously downloaded the file.. Perhaps it doesn’t sound like so many, but here there are rules: A maximum of two copies of any file are allowed, a DVD version and a compressed version. No films are allowed which have not yet been released on VHS or DVD unless it’s so long since their production that the owners have clearly decided not to bother. Mainstream cinema of the Hollywood type is discouraged and often actively eliminated, unless the work is considered to be a classic, which means that a certain amount of time must pass.. Those 55 files then, join the existing 25044 in the library. 25099 in all then. About 32,000 hours of uninterrupted viewing, or three years and seven months.

    Continue reading

    October 29, 2008 Posted by | /, copyright, p2p, social cooperation | 6 Comments

    Steal The Film Footage Archive:
    We have just released oa searchable collection of interview footage for the film, comprising nearly three hours of material with eleven of the interviewees from the film. For those interested in the themes dealt with in the film it constitutes an ‘extras’ package, but if you are interested in making a film on the subject, it is both a tool and a resource.

    We are making this footage available in high quality format (HDV 1080i), having cleared permission from the interviewees to release it under an attribution share-alike license from Creative Commons. Practically this means that you can use this material for your own projects, including commercial work, provided you credit us and make your work available in turn under a share-alike license.

    Each interview is accompanied by a time-coded transcript, allowing you to navigate to parts of the interview that you wish to watch. It is also possible to search the entire collection via text query, which returns clickable results pointing to the exact point of the video where the term appears. This functionality is based on the technology used to build the searchable film database 0xdb, and the footage collection at

    The intention behind this archive is to try and catalyze the development of a world of collaborative filmmaking, making use of the low costs of distribution and online communication. A significant cost facing low-budget documentary makers today derives from the expense of travel, accommodation, food and equipment hire involved in filming; sharing footage is a means, albeit imperfect, of mitigating these costs. It also offers the chance to open film to criticism in a new way, by reworking the materials in a way that undermines the closed nature of the filmmaking process.

    There are important differences in sharing footage and sharing code, and we are not convinced that the alternative licensing approach offers the full answer. Questions remain, such as what share-alike licenses require in terms of the conditions of access to material (in what quality?), and whether it should also mean releasing the master EDL file, so that other users can learn how you achieved the outcome. But these types of questions can be best addressed amidst a process of actively sharing footage, and are not theoretical questions which can be resolved in advance.

    On the site, you will find the interviews in two formats. The first is a light Ogg Theora version which you can watch through java enabled browser like Firefox and Safari; Internet explorer is not supported.

    High quality versions of these files are also available for download via Bittorrent, and if you would like to rework these materials you will need this version. Transfer speeds should be fast thanks to support from Mininova.

    Firstly if you spot mistakes in the transcripts of files or the website, please let us know so that we can correct them

    Secondly, if you like to edit video, download some of the HD materials and let us know if you there are problems opening them on your editing software. We know that they work immediately on Final Cut, but we haven’t tried them on systems such as Premiere, Cinelerra or any others. The interview sequences are encoded using the HDV 1080i codec, and we want to be able to document problems and workarounds arising out of this.

    We want to maximize the visibility of the archive, and you can help by modding up stories of the announce on Digg, reddit and other syndication sites. This is the first time such a comprehensive set of raw materials for a film have been made available under a free/GPL style license with searchable functionality. We believe that this is newsworthy and not mere self-promotion.

    Lastly, talk back to us, make a film! Respond with your own arguments! Complete our film! The value of this collection will be realized when you, the prod-users, do something with it. Let us see the results. Let’s argue, Let’s conspire.

    The Future
    The archive will be an ongoing project and new materials will be added, for now we want to see what type of a response we get, and how much use the archive actually receives, as it has been really labor-intensive to build.

    There’s more to come from the STF2 footage and other interviews will be shot. Subtitling the footage to make it searchable is arduous, and we’d love your assistance in doing that. We will also be contacting other filmmakers in this area to ask for their collaboration. The site has an RSS feed so that you can stay informed on new developments.

    May 22, 2008 Posted by | cinema, p2p, social cooperation, steal this film | 5 Comments

    Steal This Film Archive Release

    So we’ve finally done it: in the next couple of days we will make a public announcement with a URL for the the archive of interviews that we shot for Steal This Film 2. For the moment the details have been released to those who contacted us, donated money, offered help, or assisted the project in many ways. Of course there are thousands of unknown file-sharers who helped to seed and distribute the film, they count too, but we don’t have their emails. Our mailing list is also a bit incomplete, so don’t be offended if you haven’t received the mail. With one exception all the interviews are available under a Creative Commons Share-alike/Attribution license, with the agreements of the interviewee. Thus commercial use is permitted, as long as the subsequent work is made available to others on the same basis.

    In any case, I’ll be posting a lot more about this in the next days. My RSI injury has abated and this page will now be updated frequently again.

    May 20, 2008 Posted by | cinema, copyright, p2p, social cooperation, steal this film | 1 Comment

    Steal This Film 2 Released

    Vanessa Renwick’s neon installation sits atop the door to Rick Prelinger’s library of serendipity in San Francisco.

    After the usual last minute antics, the second installment of Steal This Film has just been released. You can download it here. There is also a quick interview with my friend Jamie on torrent freak. The film attempts to insert the conflicts over file-sharing and distributed communication in a historical context. Beginning with the book and the printing press, STF 2 tells of the disruptive consequences of new technologies of reproduction, and how these inventions are resisted by those in power.

    With historian Elizabeth Eisenstein in her home, April 2007.

    Of the many people interviewed there wasn’t space for everyone in the final cut, which will be remedied through the making available online of an archive of the source materials. Undoubtedly the film has innumerable shortcomings, we hope that others will appropriate the materials release, make their own versions, and deepen the discussion.

    Wendy Seltzer in Greenwich Village, New York April 2007; creator of Chilling Effects and one of those who are not in the final cut but to whom we are enormously grateful for their generosity. 

    Interviewed in the film: Aaron Schwartz, Adam Burns, Brokep (the Pirate Bay), Bob Darnton, Brewster Kahle, Dan Glickman, Eben Moglen, Elizabeth Eisenstein, Erik (Mininova), Felix Stadler, Fred Von Lohmann, Ghetto, Howard Rheingold, Lawerence Liang, Raph Levien, Rick Prelinger, The Grime Reaper, Seb Lutgert, Seth Schoen, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Wiley, Yochai Benkler.

    Interviewing Eben Moglen from the Software Freedom Law Center in Manhattan, April 2007.

    Special thanks to those who were generous enough to allow us to interview them but who are not in the film, sometimes for technical reasons (sound :() or simply because as a film takes shape it has to hug tighter to a theme. Our discussions with people were wide-ranging and sometimes the conversations just didn’t fit with what was eventually to become Steal This Film 2.

    … the next film will be more visual!

    December 28, 2007 Posted by | cinema, copyright, p2p | 3 Comments

    “Route Irish” Documentary Feature Released on Bit Torrent

    Eamonn Crudden, Irish filmmaker, Mob Manifesto writer and zombie-economy observer has just released his painstakingly assembled documentary “Route Irish” over Bit Torrent. To my knowledge it is the first time an Irish documentary feature has been released using p2p as its primary delivery mechanism. Premiered in Dublin earlier this month, the documentary is an account and critique of the movement against the use of Shannon airport on the Atlantic seaboard as part of the “war against terror”. The film is the result of nearly five years of work and is written with an attention to detail familiar to those who have seen Eamonn’s previous work, such as “Berlusconi’s Mousetrap” narrating the events of the G8 meeting in Genoa, 2001. More on this later, the torrent for “Route Irish” is available here.

    November 23, 2007 Posted by | /, cinema, ireland, p2p | 1 Comment

    0xdb Movie Database Goes Live

    Friends from Pirate Cinema Berlin went live with their software/database magnum opus yesterday evening. In order to access the full functionality of the site, you will need to register as a user and be in possession of a registration code, which you can acquire by writing a friendly mail to the administrators, whom you can contact here.

    The 0xdb collects information from numerous sources including allmovies, wikipedia and the internet movie database, amongst others, and offers users the chance to search and organise it in interesting ways. Where geographical data as to shot locations is available, for example, this can be plotted on google maps.

    (Location information for ‘Goodbye Lenin’)

    Entries in the database are acquired through the constant monitoring of bit torrent traffic taking place on trackers around the net, and this foundation in real data objects allows queries of a type unavailable elsewhere. Apart from nifty coding, the functionality of the database relies on a key element contributed by p2p users: subtitles. Subtitle files contain time code information that enables users to search for textual references and match them with frame/sequence locations. A search for ‘Berlin‘ or “you don’t love me any more” in the 0xdb will thus return all references to these phrases within an individual film, a set of films selected by the user, or the entire database. The result can then be previewed in flash as two second quotations.

    (‘You don’t love me any more’ in Kusturica’s ‘When Father Was Away on Business’, Hamer’s ‘Factotum’, and Godard’s ‘Le Mepris’)

    Alternatively one can look at the film broken down into scenes; the image is taken from the first frame in each minute and the sequence is five seconds in total:

    (Scenes from ‘Grands Soirs, Petits Matins’ by William Klein)

    Another innovative feature allows users to preview the entire film on a visual time-line. The 24 or 29 frames in each second are averaged out and generate a composite image one pixel wide and sixteen pixels long. Effectively this creates a visual summary of the movie similar to a film print. By clicking within the time-line brings up a miniature flash movie in a window to the left, and users can navigate through the film using the arrow keys:

    (Time-line for Francesco Rosi’s ‘Mani Sulla Citta’, the frame to the left of the time-line corresponds to where I clicked on the time-line, indicated by the red bar in the top left corner)

    Apart from providing useful charts for browsing the film’s script and content, this form of representation can also reveal a lot regarding visual style, as is demonstrated by the example below. Benning’s Ten Skies is exactly what it sounds like: a film split into ten long sequences focused on the sky:

    (Structural movies like James Benning’s ‘Ten Skies’, as never seen before).

    There has even been a film especially made to play with the form of composite image creation used to create the time line, something like a form of reverse steganography.

    (‘Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap’ by Robert Luxemburg)

    Around 2,500 films are currently present in the database, with relatively few mainstream films and a preponderance of arthouse, documentary, experimental and classic works. In addition to its ludic virtue and usefulness for research, the 0xdb raises a lot of interesting copyright questions. This aspect, as well as what it will mean for film-making will be dealt with in a later post.

    August 13, 2007 Posted by | berlin, cinema, copyright, p2p, social cooperation | 10 Comments

    Another Subtitles Site Under Investigation

    Searching for updates regarding the Polish police’s raids on participants in the fansub community Napisy, I came across a similar incident which took place shortly afterwards in France, but received little international attention.

    At the end of May, Jethro, administrator of fan-sub community, was called in for questioning by the police in Poitiers regarding the subtitles being generated by the community for US television serials not yet broadcast in France. In subsequent days he closed the site. His various statements regarding the affair are to be found here in french. From some of his remarks he seems to suspect that individuals involved in a competing fan-sub community made a complaint regarding the site to the police, introducing some murkiness into the matter. No prosecution has yet been initiated but the police have apparently not excluded the possibility. At least some members of the legal profession reckon that they could genuinely be at risk (though they could be just promoting their own services); Anne Stutzman, the head of the audiovisual and intellectual property department of the legal practice Alan Bensoussan made pessimistic noises (in french), stating that “a series’ dialogues and script are protected by copyright…. translating them, even on a volunteer basis, without the author’s permission constitutes infringement.” According to the article the offense is punishable by up to three years imprisonment and 300,000 euros in fines. Over the top? For you to judge. It’s a mad world.

    August 8, 2007 Posted by | copyright, enforcement, France, p2p, social cooperation | Leave a comment

    ISPs against Net Neutrality: The P2P User’s Stealth Enemy?

    The RIAA and its various international affiliates have been prosecuting people since September 2003, to precious little effect, even if more than 15,000 people have been targeted so far. Simultaneously they have sought to wrest back the trade in media files by licensing their archives to iTunes et al. and running publicity campaigns to ‘correct’ the hoi polloi’s acquired taste for the free copies available online. Joined by the MPAA and games manufacturers, the recording industry have another somewhat more capricious allies in the form of at least a sub-section of the Internet Service Provider industry, many of whom have initiated unilateral policies against all their users simply so as to make their lives easier, and more profitable. The key term is traffic shaping, or as users experience it, throttling, and the results are degraded performance of targeted protocols. Have you checked your ISP lately?

    Behind this practice lie a variety of intentions. The first is the desire to restrict the amount of data traffic, and as is well known, p2p is responsible for probably a majority of network traffic; some estimates claim that Bit Torrent (BT) alone is responsible for 50% of all data exchanged. Furthermore (well behaved) p2p users upload large amounts of data relative to other users, which is costly for service providers, whose model is essentially built on a client-server rather than a peer based model, and prices subscriptions based on the presumption that download will exceed upload by a factor of four. Where the ISP doesn’t have adequate bandwidth, this can cause quality of service problems (QoS) for the use of other applications.

    Traffic shaping is implemented using three techniques. The first is the restriction of data transfer speeds over ports commonly used for p2p applications such as 6881-6889 for BT. This can be easily circumnavigated by changing the port settings in the client’s preferences and updating the virtual server on the router. Frequently however sophisticated methods are being used which involve packet inspection of the data. This doesn’t require storing or looking at the contents of the data to identify the content, but merely looking at the header and making an adhoc decision as to how to treat it. If packets I’m sending to peers are being dumped or lost, this will have effect how I’m treated by other peers in the network, reducing my download speed. This technique can be thwarted in some cases by encrypting the data (as is possible on clients such as Azureus and uTorrent). Lastly, where encryption and port randomization is used to evade identification, the solution is simply traffic analysis and heuristics: if I have dozens of TCP connections open to numerous IP addresses over a sustained period, well it’s not impossible that I’m getting blocks of the same file from them. Products capable of excecuting such functions are much in demand today, check out Cisco’s Network Based Application Recognition (NBAR) or Allot’s NetEnforcer.

    As mentioned above there are many instances where these techniques are driven either by cost and QoS considerations. However this is not always the case. For example Clearwire – a WiMax operator in Canada, Ireland and elsewhere – restrict the use of the Voice over IP services because they are marketing their own (they also make p2p services more or less unusable). 3G operators exclude VOIP for the same reason (they’re not interested in cannibalizing their mobile phone business model). In the future we’re going to see a lot more of this, particularly as ISPs try to position themselves as the delivery point for services such as video on demand – at that point their interest in blocking the untolled distribution of movies will be transparent.

    The irony in all this is that ISPs with their own infrastructure effectively received a wealth transfer from the media industries from Napster ownwards. Access to free content was a key driver between the uptake of broadband subscriptions, the point has been made ad nauseam, but 2-8MB downloads are completely otiose for those whose ambition doesn’t exceed browsing the web and using mail. Indeed the media industries continually rammed the point down the throats of anyone who would listen: fierce legislative battles were fought to determine ISP liability for the data carried, concluding in the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA and EUCD which grant service providers legal shelter from their user’s actions. This certainly facilitated the development of file-sharing culture to the point whereby irrespective of what happens prospectively the media industry has a massive legacy problem due to the sheer quantity of material available out there, for free. So the ISPs are screwing people at both ends: users and media corporations.

    Secondly all of this occurs without ISP users being given any explanation, there is no transparency. Traffic shaping systems are introduced on the sly and performace degrades from one ay to the next, causing confusion and a massive waste of time on the part of users who are convinced that they have done something wrong. there are unusually honest companies such as the Australian Exetel, but they are the exceptions. Under cover of creative interpretations of the Terms and Conditions in subscribers’ contracts they can legally get away with changing the service delivered, but it speaks oceans about the contempt they resrve for their predominantly non-technical user-base.

    Lastly, my motivation for this rant is that six years ago, together with many others, I realized the potential of distributed media platforms built on p2p architectures. The ambition was not really to get free hollywood and boy-band-bumf, but rather to promote and distribute independent material produced according to another economic logic. And empirically it is beyond question that the amount of material authorised for exchange is proliferating rapidly (Creative Commons, GPL, Free Culture Defintion etc). Perhaps it sounds like net-utopianism, vintage 1995, but this is the first time in communications history that there exists an infrastructure of immediately global scope, capable of being assembled in a modular grassroots manner by the users themselves, who can decide what they want to help push. Irrespective of one’s side in the various debates around media concentration, this is a good thing. In the absence of such shared scalable infrastructures the impact of ‘disruptive technologies’ on communications freedom is reduced to the youtube fallacy: you can feel free to upload your content, but only they have the deep pockets to finance reliable streaming servers that can satisfy demand, thus they ultimately control the conduit. Over the next period there will be efficient p2p based streaming solutions, but if people have become accustomed to the return to dreary client-server relations epitomised by web 2.0/iTunes/rapidshare, the benefits will have been squandered. For some time now there have been legislative initiatives in different jurisdictions to guarantee Net Neutrality, as yet none have managed to become law.

    July 18, 2007 Posted by | communication, p2p, technology | 1 Comment

    Poachers & Gamekeepers: Isohunt and TorrentSpy Will Filter Out Copyrighted Works

    My pal Jamie pointed me towards today’s news that Isohunt and TorrentSpy, probably the two most commonly used torrent site aggregators have announced that they will be implementing a service called FileRights to filter the media indexed by their site. This system is composed of a databse of cryptographic hashes corresponding to copyrighted movies-music-software, and will eliminate ‘offending’ items from the search results.

    Every different encoding or compresson of a file will have a different hash value so it will take some time for the mechanism to become in any way effective, and given the competition amongst torrent sites together with the low cost of lanuching new aggregators it’s unlikely to have any effect. These two search aggregators have acquired some brand value however and are obviously keen to stay alive and ultimately cash in.

    June 26, 2007 Posted by | /, copyright, enforcement, p2p | Leave a comment

    Documentary Maker Sam Green on P2P

    Whilst in San Francisco we attended a screening in Craig Baldwin’s “The Other Cinema”, compéred by filmmaker Sam Green, director of “The Weather Underground” amongst other works. The idea did occur to us to interview him on the subject of his attitude towards p2p, as his work epitomises in some ways the type of film that benefits in visibility through uncontrolled distribution, as it has a definite audience spread thinly worldwide, many of whom will never have the chace to see it in cinema or rent it at a store. However the object of our attention that night was Craig Baldwin, so we stayed focussed. Fortunately Sam was on his way to Rome to the Tekfestival organized by friends of ours, and my pal Espanz took the opportunity to shoot a short interview with him as they wandered through the streets of the city. You can see it here.

    May 22, 2007 Posted by | cinema, p2p | 1 Comment

    Polish Fansubs site Shut by Police, Participants Arrested

    There I was in the kitchen this morning, brooding over the difficulties of representing peer production in film, a meditation catalysed by the last two months of researching, shootibg and editing a documentary. For the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that the value of fansub communties, producing subtitles for films not yet translated into other languages, is an excellent example easily graped by anyone. At this point I must admit to being something of a translator, not the greatest certainly, and distinctly part-time, but I’ve produced subtitles for documentaries and narrative films both professionally and as an amateur.

    Checking my mail, I came upon my daily dose of bad news from the intellectual property world via a Polish Linux site: this week the police in Poland detained for questioning at last six participants in a community,, dedicated to the production of subtitles. Here some explanation for the uninitiated is required. This site did not distribute copies of films, ever, not even a single frame, and they are not accused of having done so. Nor did they sell or otherwise distribute audiovisual works. These people are amateur subtitlers who contribte their own time to translating movies into polish so that their monolingual compatriots can watch and understand them. Another word on subtitles on the net: there are two formats widely used, recognisable by the .srt and .sub suffixes, and it’s not too hard to transform one into the other. SRT are essentially just word processing files, which contain time-codes that indicate the moment when the title should appear and disappear. Immediately undernath you type the text that you wish to appear. If you want, you can actually just invent titles for a the film of you brushing your cat’s teeth on youtube (chapeau Craig Baldwin!) as an experiment.

    Once upon a time one required dedicated machines to subtitle movies and these are still used. More recently it has become straightforward although time-consuming to insert title tracks onto a Final Cut Pro file. But neither of these systems opened up subtitling to the type of collective efforts one sees on the web. In the first case the capital costs of the machines have kept it a professional activity, in the second it’s just arduous. The emergence of .srt particularly has madde it easy for people to create amateur subtitles for movies, using basic movie players like Quick Time/mplayer to set the ‘in’ and ‘out’. Furthermore, once a set of titles was available, incrmental improvement was the norm, as much of the work lies on getting the synchronicity between the titles and dialogue correct, the text itself is easily corrected by later translators. Another consequence of this format is that once a subtitle file exists in one language, it facilitates the translation into other languages, as only the text need be changed. Here endeth the lesson. users are accused of unauthorised production of derivative works with a potential punishment of up to two years in jail. The absurdity of this hypothesis requires no emphasis here, so I’ll simply nod to the fact that the comparisons with the restriction of individual behaviour under stalinism are striking, and for once that does not strike me as hyperbole. What is going on in that country? My home town Dublin is full of Poles who have come there seeking work, whilst the only nes I ever hear of Poland is their government (i) calling for the return of the death sentence, (ii) endorsing homophobia, (iii) egging on the most depraved military operations of Bush/NATO and generally functioning as neo-conservative base in the EU. And then they go after fansubbers!

    These raids were orchestrated by The Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry (ZPAV), a collective rights organisation, and German authorities shut the site which was hosted on servers in that jurisdiction. They are co-founders of the The Anti-Piracy Coalition, founded in 1998 by three organizations: ZPAV, FOTA (Polish branch of Motion Picture Association) and BSA (Business Software Alliance). My guess is that this investigation will be emabarassingly shelved quickly, but only after having scared people involved ina public interest activity. Comments to the slashdot story on the subject on elsehwere have also pointed out that in general forign-language movies are dubbed in polish, and all the dubbing is carrried out by the same person! So there it is: the official world offers you a hitty sub-standard product, which would make any filmmaker wince, the ‘pirates’ offer the real thing, free of self-interest, and are threatened with jail? WTF.

    To complete the facts it should be noted that the police rousted the accused out of their beds at 6.00 AM in the morning, which would be the routine for a serious crime investigation. They also seized equipment and  claimed that they had found thousands of copies of pirated copies of films,  a claim which is by all accounts false, and hopefully actionable by the defendants.

    May 19, 2007 Posted by | cinema, copyright, law, p2p, social cooperation, technology | 2 Comments