Minnow ISP aims counterstrike at RIAA ‘legal hackers’

Says protecting customer data, not pirates

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

A small US internet service provider has become the first to introduce a policy of deliberately hampering the music recording industry's efforts to hack users of peer-to-peer file-trading networks,

writes Kevin Murphy.

Although the Recording Industry Association of America is currently believed to be involved in no such activity, a bill currently before the US House of Representatives proposes to allow copyright owners to deliberately tamper with suspected pirates' files when they believe copyright infringement is taking place.

New Jersey-based Information Wave Technologies said in a statement this week that the RIAA's proposed actions "puts its customers at risk of unintentional damage, corporate espionage, and invasion of privacy, to say the least." The ISP, which serves New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, has blocked the RIAA web site from its users.

The company also announced plans to seed the Gnutella P2P network with fake music files, in order to sniff out potential recording industry hackers. Files with names of Billboard Top 100 songs and file sizes similar to three-minute MP3s will be put on Gnutella peers. Peers that connect and subsequently appear to be hacking will have their IP addresses blocked from Information Wave's network.

The ISP said it was concerned not with aiding piracy, but with protecting its customers' data. The potential for legal hacking of its customers could put companies at risk of "espionage hidden by the veil of RIAA copyright enforcement", the firm said. Many users of P2P networks connect using fast internet connections in the workplace.

The RIAA did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Information Wave, which was formed in January last year and appears to be a fairly small concern, also did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, although its policy elicited a noticeable amount of support from other network operators on popular mailing lists.

Last month Democrat Representative Howard Berman of California introduced the Peer To Peer Piracy Prevention Act, which proposes to open a loophole in current hacking law to allow copyright owners to access pirated content on end user machines by otherwise illegal means with limited liability.

Berman said in a statement. "Software companies employ technologies that make their software inoperable if license terms are violated. However, copyright owners cannot use many promising, anti-piracy technologies because doing so runs afoul of certain common law doctrines and state and federal statutes, including the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act."

The bill limits copyright owner liability when "disabling, interfering with, blocking, diverting or otherwise impairing the unauthorized distribution, display, performance, or reproduction" of copyrighted work on a P2P network. A number of conditions, such as not causing more than $50 of damage, and seeking approval of the tools to be used, are stipulated in the bill.

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