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UPC Wins [Oct. 11th, 2010|02:40 pm]
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UPC, Ireland's third largest ISP, has prevailed in a court case brought against them by the Irish Recorded Music Association. IRMA had argued that UPC should enforce a three strikes rule against alleged file-sharers on their network using details provided by IRMA without any judicial oversight. Such a system makes the assumption that everyone accused is guilty and punishes entire households for the actions of one family member, it is abhorrent.

Previously Eircom, the largest ISP, had folded to these demands in an out of court settlement, followed shortly and meekly by the second largest, Vodafone.

Since the Irish arm of the recording industry began its efforts to bargain its way out of the grave, UPC had vowed to fight their demands for customer disconnections. Their argument was that, as a mere conduit, they could not be held liable for any supposedly illegal activities conducted by their users.

Is his judgement Justice Charleton pointed out that, just as UPC had indicated, the law does not require them to act against their customers in cases of alleged copyright infringement:

"It is not surprising that the legislative response laid down in our country in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, at a time when this problem was not perceived to be as threatening to the creative and retail economy as it has become in 2010, has made no proper provision for the blocking, diverting or interrupting of internet communications intent on breaching copyright"

Word has it that two smaller ISPs, confusingly called O2 and 3, have been waiting on the outcome of these proceedings before deciding whether or not to contest similar cases brought against them by IRMA.

Looks like the floodgates of common sense have opened.

The question remains: how will this affect the agreement between IRMA, Eircom and Vodafone? Eircom were well aware that being the only ISP implementing a three strikes policy (especially one so biased toward the accuser) would put them at a competitive disadvantage in the broadband market. To mitigate this, part of their agreement included a mandate that IRMA would pursue similar cases against other Irish ISPs, essentially eliminating Eircom's handicap by breaking every other player's legs. Since Vodafone is also colluding with IRMA it seems safe to assume they were making the same demands. Now it looks like that part of the deal has fallen through, so does this mean the whole thing will be called off? Hard to say, but it seems unlikely considering Eircom did not wait until the case was over before sending out the their initial round of first strike warnings.

From the sounds of things, IRMA's next course of action will be to lobby the Irish government for changes to the law that would force everyone to buy buggy whips. Well, even if they succeed in this, at least there is a better chance of a presumption of innocence.

Naturally I would prefer that this industry not mutilate our laws as its final act of defiance. Better for them to fade away quietly and send musicians back to making money they way they are supposed to: by getting up on a stage and performing. After all, one cannot share "being there" over P2P.

  • Irish Times: "Last night, David Cullen, a partner with William Fry solicitors, said the ruling 'will have ramifications' for Eircom's agreement with the labels."
  • Independent: "Unlike many European countries, including the United Kingdom and France, Ireland has not made any provision for blocking internet sites intent on breaching copyright."
  • TechDirt: "Unfortunately, the judge did trot out debunked claims that file sharing was some how destroying the industry, even as more and more evidence has shown the exact opposite."
  • ISP Review: "the case itself revealed, above all else, that the legal system simply doesn't understand internet technology and Rights Holders (RH) are continuing to abuse that ignorance."
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Recording Industry Now Owns 63% of Ireland's Internet [Jun. 21st, 2010|03:02 pm]
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The story so far: The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) have successfully persuaded Eircom, Ireland's largest broadband provider (42% of the market), to censor their service and threaten their own customers with disconnection if they are merely accused of illegal file sharing. In effect the recording industry have introduced a de facto three-strikes law with none of that pesky judicial oversight that might actually require them to spend money on lawyers. Of course this has put Eircom at a competitive disadvantage since both accused customers and actual files sharers will be compelled to jump ship for friendlier ISPs. So as part of their agreement IRMA have begun chasing down other Irish ISPs to force them to introduce the same conditions.

The news did not improve when Vodafone (also serving departed BT Ireland's customers) folded under IRMA's threats and is now in talks with them over the introduction of filtering and three-strikes on their service. Vodafone is the second largest provider with 21% of the market.

That's now 63% of all internet users subject to these draconian restrictions.

The one hope is UPC Ireland, the third largest provider with 15% of the market, who have vowed to fight IRMA on the grounds that there is absolutely no legal requirement for them to protect other people's intellectual property. There is some hope here for them as IRMA have not yet won a court case against an ISP. But with such a small fraction of the market at stake it seems unlikely that Eircom and Vodafone will use a win by UPC as grounds for cancelling their agreements with IRMA. Of course, IRMA can just keep suing UPC until their continued defiance starts to eat away profits -- after all, while UPC is a large international, IRMA is several large internationals.

There is a very real possibility that, over the next two or three years Ireland will become the first nation on Earth who's primary information infrastructure has fallen entirely under the control of the recording industry.

The reason for this totalitarian response? Mr Willie Kavanagh of EMI Music Ireland and chairman of IRMA claims that the recorded music industry in Ireland has halved in the last four years and that sales of recorded music are expected to drop another 12% this year. Against all available evidence from independent studies Mr Kavanagh and IRMA seem to be of the opinion that the blame for this decline can be laid squarely at the feet of illegal file sharing.

It is conceivable that their hypothesis will soon be put to the test.

I don't pirate music (not intentionally at least), but nor do I buy a lot of it. The little music I do purchase these days comes directly from the artists or, where that's not possible, from independent labels. If I can do neither of these things then I simply don't buy at all. This new regime will not alter this, it won't make me pay for more music. But how will it affect the music buying and listening habits of everyone else? Are the file sharers really going to start buying more CDs?

If sales continue to fall will the recording industry simply dry up and disappear from our shores (as Mr Kavanagh predicts in the next fives years without internet filtering and three-strikes)? Would that be enough to prove that it is not file sharing that is killing the industry but the simple fact that their services are no longer required? Would they use continued decline as justification for even more restrictions on ISPs? Might they massage their figures to show a levelling or even a rise in sales in an attempt to show that the measures are working and use that as "proof" that they need to be introduced in other countries?

How long will it be, at the current rate of decline, before the recording industry as a whole simply does not have enough money to continue this ill-considered war?

Time will tell.
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UK Government Under the Control of Hollywood [Feb. 22nd, 2008|10:18 pm]
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You may have noticed that the UK government, with the kind assistance of Andrew Burnham MP of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is bowing to Hollywood and the record labels' various enforcement groups, essentially handing them the power to control the uses that UK citizens may make of their internet connections. ISPs have been given until April 2009 to comply with new regulations that will force them to inspect all data transferred through their systems and magically deduce whether or not it involves the sharing of copyrighted material. In the event that sharing is suspected (nothing more is required) the ISP subscriber will receive a strike against them, if they receive three strikes their internet service will be terminated.

No allowances have been made for the technological requirements for deep packet inspection of all traffic that passes through a service providers system. It may safely be presumed that the customers will end up paying extra to have their private data transmissions intercepted and analysed. I have yet to find any comment form Burnham on the morality of cutting off an innocent user when someone else who makes use of the same connection is suspected of sharing - if one family member breaks the rules then everyone in that household loses access this increasingly essential communications service. Nor have I seen any indication from those involved that they have any understanding of the encryption arms race they are about to enter and immediately lose - that will be an awful lot of money spent and trouble caused for a system that will be worked around before it is even put in place. Naturally there is no hint of how the ISP's are to identify copyrighted works from any other shared files. And what are the procedures for proving one's innocence? How does someone with a strike based on a suspicion show that they are not guilty of sharing (baring in mind the technical hurdles already involved in proving positive proof of sharing).

The most sensible response I have heard comes from a Slashdot commenter:

"if all ISPs in the UK staged a strike by cutting Internet access everywhere for two or three days and claim that would be the only possible way to ensure their customers aren't pirating anything, I am sure that the outrage would force another look at the law. And if they did this 2 different times, like once on Thursday Friday and Saturday, it could cause direct deposit information and payroll services to be interrupted. If they did this on again a week later on lets say Monday and Tuesday, there would be so much upset and confusion that those who think they wasn't effected will be."

Personally I will be happy to lose access for a few days if it will do anything to prevent this travesty from going any further. Frankly, the harm done to individual users will not even register compared to the harm done to UK financial sector, not least the content industry. They must learn that the environment has changed and all the legislation in the world cannot change it back. Technology has moved forward and they have failed to follow. Their demise is inevitable, and is only hastened by making enemies of us all.
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The Only Solution [Jan. 11th, 2008|03:18 pm]
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A growing number of Swedish MPs are questioning the logic and legality of the recording industry targeting file sharers and forcing ISPs to help identify them. They have a simple and obvious solution that many of us will find familiar:

"Decriminalizing all non-commercial file sharing and forcing the market to adapt is not just the best solution. It’s the only solution, unless we want an ever more extensive control of what citizens do on the Internet. Politicians who play for the antipiracy team should be aware that they have allied themselves with a special interest that is never satisfied and that will always demand that we take additional steps toward the ultimate control state. Today they want to transform the Internet Service Providers into an online police force, and the Antipiracy Bureau wants the authority for themselves to extract the identities of file sharers. Then they can drag the 15-year-old girl who downloaded a Britney Spears song to civil court and sue her."

Those of us with any insight into the industry already knew that this had gone too far, that the recording industry was seeking powers far beyond those required for commerce and that such grasping power-hungry manoeuvring was a sing of bad things to come. Now it seems they have finally push hard enough to raise the heckles of more than a few politicians. Six members of the Swedish Moderate Party drafted the article quoted above taking into account some uncomfortable questions from various government bodies including the Data Inspection Board and The Competition Authority. It draws attention to the issues of privacy, authority, due process and human rights. Since it's publication support has continued to grow and a second article has been signed by 13 members of the Swedish parliament.

Finally there are politicians who are walking into this argument with open eyes instead of overstuffed wallets. Hopefully this movement will produce something akin to reasonable and workable legislation in Sweden, something that protects private citizens and forces the recoding industry to accept that it no longer has a place in the modern world. With a little more luck, such common sense thinking will prove infectious and we will start to see this attitude spread to the rest of Europe.
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Glitch [Dec. 5th, 2007|10:49 pm]
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Listen, Glick, the movie industry is already doing the one thing that guarantees I will never illegally download their 'products', namely they are now making such deficient, low-brow, half-assed, worthless, over-hyped, over-funded, overwritten, sub intellectual, inadequate, substandard, ridiculous, inferior, scoff-worthy, malodorous, cringe-making, mismanaged, shoddy, insufferable, incompetent and defective low-com-dom crap, that I would never ever even consider wasting one single byte of my precious bandwidth on any of it. I would be perfectly happy to see every last bit of your meritless trash forever erased from the internet were it not for the fact that you are trying to do it by introducing a radically disproportionate mechanism: ending Network Neutrality!

Don't cover your ears Glickster, you need to hear this: Shrek 3 is not important enough to bring an end to our freedom. The only reason the movie industry can say it's losing money now is because they spent way too much on producing something that nobody actually needs and nobody really wants. The Western World will not crumble because they can't turn a profit, but it might if we lose the integrity and security of the single most important communications tool in history.

One way or another the IP delusional industries are one the way out. It's only a matter of time before the average consumer figures out that their 'entertainment' just isn't worth it any more, that the busker on the street outside the cinema is a hell of lot more creative, interesting and memorable than the claptrap movie they just walked out of. How long do you think they'll watch their technology subverted, their personal data ransacked, their legally purchased media disintegrating, and their communications tapped and blocked before they think: "But I didn't even like the Bourne Appendectomy!"

Anyone invested in the movie or recording industries with even an iota of common sense should be selling up now, while their stock is still worth the ferromagnetic material it's stored on. You know it can't go on like this. It just isn't reasonable in consider this a survivable scenario for anyone involved. I mean it. Get out now. This is going to end badly, and you know it.

Glicky, you are not adding to our culture in any positive way beyond uniting the rest of us against you. You are not curing any horrible diseases. You are not on a crusade of righteousness. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are not welcome here.
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KISS Off [Nov. 17th, 2007|03:39 pm]
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I have never been a fan of KISS, and I never will be thanks to the enlightened opinions of Mr. Gene Simmons:

"The record industry doesn't have a f---ing clue how to make money. It's only their fault for letting foxes get into the henhouse and then wondering why there's no eggs or chickens. Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid's face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning. Those kids are putting 100,000 to a million people out of work. How can you pick on them? They've got freckles. That's a crook. He may as well be wearing a bandit's mask."

'Gene Simmons: college kids killed music biz'

Sued off the face of the earth? Have their homes and cars taken? I have to wonder if there are actually any 'kids' who would now admit to downloading a Kiss track but, Mr Simmons, do you really want them punished for seeking out your music? Do you think this will make them want to pay for anything you produce ever again?

And if we need any more evidence that this is the drivelous spoutings of a narrow-minded, over-paid half-wit we are presented at the end with this little gem:

"The only reason why gold is expensive is because we all agree that it is. There's no real use for it, except we all agree and abide by the idea that gold costs a certain amount per ounce. As soon as you give people the choice to deviate from it, you have chaos and anarchy. And that's what going on."

'Gene Simmons: college kids killed music biz'

... I... I don't even know where to start! Mr. Simmons, gold is expensive because it is extremely useful and attractive while at the same time being VERY RARE. Sure we could all decide that it's worth a lot less but that will just make it harder to come by because getting it out of the ground will become less profitable.

Music, Mr. Simmons, even yours unfortunately, is infinitely abundant, it can be reproduced endlessly and distributed globally at virtually no cost. It's as though music covers the streets like dirt, clogging gutters, and getting trodden unintentionally into people's homes, yet we have this ridiculous system that makes it illegal to bend down and pick any of it up. Bottom line: the monetary value of anything, including music, is inversely proportional to it's availability, if it is infinitely abundant then it's monetary value is indistinguishable from zero.

"As soon as you give people the choice to deviate from it, you have chaos and anarchy." Seriously Mr. Simmons, could you be any more establishment?

I want to see artists honoured for their success, given something that proportionally rewards their contribution to our culture. But this cannot be at the expense of our freedom to participate in that culture, the ability to use our own technology as we see fit and to remain secure in our private matters. That is why I back the concept of a Independent Democratic Blanket License, to free ourselves and support our artists. Yes, change can be scary, it will cost jobs, but it will also create new jobs, whole new business models even. Think of all the cool new media and networking technology we will be designing, building, selling and buying when we can share media without fear for our liberty. Think of all the artists who aren't even given a chance in today's market who could get their music to people's ears and get paid for it through the IDBL. Artists are not the enemy, we're fighting for their freedom too.

So, Mr. Gene "Doesn't have a f---ing clue" Simmons, get your wise on, right now, or we're leaving you behind.
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The Blanket License: A Modest Proposal [Oct. 25th, 2007|05:11 pm]
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According to a report from ArsTechnica the fabled Blanket License has once again reared its head, this time in Denmark:

Andy Oram over at O'Reilly Radar noted the recent moves in Denmark to create a system where every ISP user might pay a monthly fee in order to access unlimited P2P music legally.

The proposal has drawn positive feedback from an unlikely source—the local "Piratgruppen."

"It's good that they admit that they cannot solve the problem of falling CD sales by suing their own fans," said Sebastian Gjerding from the Piratgruppen. "It looks like they have understood that they should offer something that is competitive compared to other, free music sources. It is an entirely new admission that hasn't spread internationally yet. IFPI Denmark is on the forefront in this matter. But it is annoying that no action has been taken so far to save many teenagers million-krone fines."

The article notes some obstacles to the proposal. For instance, will this cover just 'local' bands or include international sources? The former would simply prove unenforceable - they'd have less luck detecting where they were downloading from than they currently have detecting if they have downloaded anything at all - while the latter would be a logistical zombie movie complete with everyone dying at the end! Another question is whether this will be a voluntary payment or amount to a tax on all users regardless of whether they ever download music or not?

Despite these sorts of issues, I consider the Blanket License to be the most equitable and, more importantly, most moral alternative to the current media distribution model. Fundamentally it is a concept that makes the most of current technology and encourages further development, while at the same time protecting our right to make use of our own hardware and data.

The problems mentioned in the article are trivial. Yes, the BL should cover artists worldwide but it should be stipulated that they make the claim to receive anything. Yes, the BL should be a mandatory payment, including for businesses - they don't want to make use of it, that's up to them, but since it's there why not let their employees share media on their network without a legal care in the world?

My main problem with the Danish plan is its hopelessly narrow vision, covering only music and only one country. It is comically ineffectual.

Here's the real plan:

The Blanket License should cover all media, it should, in fact, cover anything that can be encoded, uploaded, downloaded or otherwise redistributed, music, movies, TV shows, books, newspapers, 3d printer files, essentially any media that can be rendered as data. It should be run as an opt-in for content creators alone and strictly prohibit music cartels, charities and other non-root content providers. It should also provide a means for those artists who build on the work of others to indicate and reward their contributors.

But there is one element that is by far the most important: the Blanket License must be directly democratic. By this I mean that the distribution of the revenue derived from the BL should be based on what the users are listening to, watching and using, not on some even division or some educated guess informed by random polling. We should literally be voting for our choices and the results of these votes used to calculate the creators' share.s Of course one vote a week is hardly going to be a fair measure, instead we would need at least a hundred votes a week which we could distribute as we see fit (say a maximum of five votes per voter for any one creator). This voting could allow for a mix of voluntary voting (specific choices regardless of what a user has actually downloaded) and user-controlled automated voting (a system that allows vote assignments based on the usage statistics from a media player). No one would be forced to vote, but it would be in their interests to encourage their favourite bands, actors photographers, writers and so on, and automatic voting could allow users to contribute without any real effort.

There will still be a place for record labels as marketing brokers, contracting artists for flat fees or a percentage of their earnings in return for their expertise in development and marketing their creations.

This real Blanket License would be no small undertaking, requiring the development of an international infrastructure and region-by-region legislation to remove the existing legal hurdles faced by users. But the result would be a totally egalitarian forum, the likes of which has not been seen since some mug took a handful of loose change and sang to a wax cylinder. All that would be required for an artist to make money would be to make music and find people who like it enough to vote for it, no contracts, no physical distribution, and most significantly, no risk.

It's ambitious, and naturally it glosses over some real problems. Technically, there are issues with the security involved in electronic voting, ensuring that the votes are genuine rather than the result of malicious software running on client systems, and preventing any third party from accessing usage data and putting user privacy at risk (a premise I call Regime Proofing - designing the system so that should it fall under someone else's control there will not be enough information recorded to identify individual users, though there should still be enough to identify tampering and vandalism [a paradox, I know]). And naturally the entire system would need to be totally transparent if it is to be trusted by artists and consumers.

The environment that this Blanket License could create is an exciting one. It would encourage a far greater range of cultural experience for users, exposing them to a vast library of content without restriction and without the increasingly hegemonic filtering of the incumbent distribution businesses. Since each user has already paid for all their downloading there can be none of this quibbling over the rights involved in time- and format-shifting. Download once and the data is yours to do with as you please., you will be free to invent new ways of accessing your culture that have yet to be even dreamed of, and without fear of the shadow of monetisation.

Radiohead's independent venture into alternative digital distribution model was laudable, a worthy experiment, but one dependant on the duality of our current attitude to online media, both legal and illicit. What they received for their effort was charity: not a long term solution, but a round of applause for a worthy effort. In the end we cannot expect to support artists through benevolence alone. How many 'micro-patrons' can we expect to find and persuade to keep giving? Radiohead simply walked out into a new and forbidding wilderness, if anyone is going to follow, we're going to need to build them some roads.

I've previously discussed the impact of unlimited digital distribution on the existing content industry, namely the rapid and near total destruction of physical production interests. Other commentators have suggested that such a vision is unnecessarily apocalyptic, that, for instance, paper books will never disappear, and to an extent I agree. But consider a world in which you can access any book, at any time, for free; can we really expect already struggling publishers to survive that? There will always be a market for dead tree, just as there is still a market for vinyl, but there will also be a reckoning in the market that will see it reduced to little more than a niche. Now consider this situation extended to cover not only book sellers, but music stores, tv stations, cinemas and all the services that depend on them. A whole set of industries is at stake, countless jobs, and a huge chunk of the Western economy.

The Blanket License promises an almost unimaginable upheaval in the 'business of culture', a vision that the entrenched business interests will likely do anything to escape. But consider also that the openness it could bring will foster new technologies and new businesses to exploit those technologies and even new ways of doing business - the economic environment might then be changed rather than destroyed.

I am convinced that, if we are to avoid handing over control of our lives to big business, then this is the way it must be. It is the Blanket License or (without exaggeration) cultural totalitarianism.
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Linking a Crime - It are a FACT [Oct. 19th, 2007|10:42 pm]
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The Guardian is gleefully frothing over the arrest of a web site owner for allowing visitors to download infringing content [they even trot out that old Lost Sales gag, I expect then to start discussing internet tubes any moment now]. But as with almost all of these cases things are not so clearly defined:

"One of the world's most-used pirate film websites has been closed after providing links to illegal versions of major Hollywood hits and TV shows.

The first closure of a major UK-based pirate site was also accompanied by raids and an arrest, the anti-piracy group Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) said today.

A 26-year-old man from Cheltenham was arrested on Thursday in connection with offences relating to the facilitation of copyright infringement on the internet, Fact said.

Fact claims that was providing links to illegal film content that had been camcorder recorded from cinemas and then uploaded to the internet. The site also provided links to TV shows that were being illegally distributed."


Yes, you read that correctly, the site was "providing links" to "illegal film content". This site itself contained nothing illegal, there was no copyrighted content available there, it was not possible to upload or download such content to its server. If there's nothing illegal then there is no crime, if there is no crime then the "26-year-old man from Cheltenham" is innocent. I hope 26yomfC has a a decent, IT-savvy lawyer because this could not only put him in enough cash to keep him comfy for a long time but also protect from any future prosecutions.

The issue here is the difference between performing an illegal act and describing one. The TV Links site merely described the locations and methods of acquisition for infringing content, it did not actually perform the infringement. By that same token, any author of a novel that describes a murder should be arrested for murder. Anyone who shows a policeman the location of a stolen car should be arrested for stealing it [yeah, I know, 'car analogy'].

Let's run with that last one: if anything this site was a useful tool for IP delusionals, showing them exactly where to find the actual infringing sites and torrents, happily revealed to them by the very people that so plague them. As a resource you would think it far more valuable than a single highly questionable arrest.

Once again these people have succeeded in pissing me off. Remember to use the Bad Guy Sticker greasemonkey tool while browsing Amazon to help you avoid purchasing products from members of FACT. Give these idiots your money and it will be used to harm your rights, prevent you from using your own tools and content, and to restrict your access to your own culture.
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Untraceable P2P? [Sep. 11th, 2007|04:27 pm]
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This is a story from BBC News about the Swedish company TerraNet that wants to introduce ad-hoc networking to mobile phone technology. The endeavour is aimed at offering the developing world free communications over an ever-expanding network limited only be the number of handsets in range:

"The TerraNet technology works using handsets adapted to work as peers that can route data or calls for other phones in the network.

The handsets also serve as nodes between other handsets, extending the reach of the entire system. Each handset has an effective range of about one kilometre.

This collaborative routing of calls means there is no cost to talk between handsets.

When a TerraNet phone is switched on, it begins to look for other phones within range. If it finds them, it starts to connect and extend the radio network.

When a number is dialled a handset checks to see if the person being called is within range. If they are, the call goes through.

While individually the phones only have a maximum range of 1km, any phone in between two others can forward calls, allowing the distance to double. This principle applied many times creates a mini network."

It would be interesting to see this technology used for untraceable communications and file-sharing, providing an ephemeral and inherently neutral network of potentially anonymous nodes, immune to state control and far, far beyond the reach of the RIAA, MPAA, and other IP delusionals.
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Poisoned Chalace [May. 31st, 2007|01:34 pm]
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A pessimist gains no greater pleasure than being able to say "I told you so!"

"With great power comes great responsibility, and apparently with DRM-free music comes files embedded with identifying information. Such is the situation with Apple's new DRM-free music: songs sold without DRM still have a user's full name and account e-mail embedded in them, which means that dropping that new DRM-free song on your favorite P2P network could come back to bite you."


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