Quantcast

DOES NAPSTER HAVE THE KNOW-HOW, NOT THE DESIRE, TO SCREEN OUT INFRINGING FILES?

It All Boils Down To A Little Thing Called "MD5," And No That’s Not A Rock Band From Detroit
If what follows is true, then there are people at Napster whose pants should be on fire.

According to a story posted today (10/18) on Inside.com, the task of screening out files that infringe on copyrights from Napster's database is completely within the realm of possibility. Not only that, but many programmers who have reverse-programmed Napster's file-sharing technology, as a way of creating open-source clones, find it difficult to believe that Napster could be unaware of that fact. Of course, the swappery may not have a subscription to Inside.

What lies at the center of the controversy is a little piece of code present in any music file known as the "MD5 hash"— a sort of digital fingerprint created anytime an MP3 file is "ripped." Despite differences in actual file names of essentially the same song, the MD5 would be the most reliable way to trace which tracks were authorized and which were simply ripped and posted illegally. And since the MD5 hash is a string of 32 letters and numbers, it's reportedly fairly simple to scan for, even considering the number of files Napster servers process in a given day.

This goes a little bit against Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning's testimony before a Senate Judiciary hearing on Oct. 9. "The underlying principle of the technology and the service is that," Fanning said, "Napster provides the tools but has no ability to impose limitations or exercise control."

That has been the company's public stance, ever since it has been dragged into court. And the three judges of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals certainly swallowed what Napster was telling them. "How in the world are they expected to have knowledge of what's coming off some kid's computer in Hackensack, NJ, for transmission to Guam?" asked Judge Robert Beezer.

Judge Mary Schroeder added, "Napster doesn't have any idea at any point in time what's being transmitted and what isn't."

Chad Boyda of Thirty4 Interactive, producer of the open-source Napster clone Napigator, told Inside, "Napster knows a great deal about what's going on in its servers."

Though Napster CEO Hank Barry maintains that screening out files is not currently technically viable, many tech-heads disagree that there are thousands of MD5 hashes. And not the good, Amsterdam-type of hash.

But investigation by both Inside and NetPD (the company who investigated Napster usage for the Dr. Dre and Metallica cases against the company) found that most songs, though represented by thousands of different files, could be broken down into just a handful of MD5s. The upshot being that the Napster community is filled with relatively few people ripping new copies. Said Net PD Technical Director Bruce Ward, "It's kind of an echo chamber. Most of the time, it's a few originals and thousands of copies."

Of course, the question arises: If Napster did screen out what amounts to the most popular files on its server, how many of its 32 million customers would remain to download its "unsigned" bands?

This whole argument, of course, brings us right back to Federal District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's comments about Napster when she issued her order to shut the site down on June 26. "Plaintiffs have argued, and I think persuasively, that defendant is capable of exercising supervisory powers over its service," Patel said. "Though it may be technologically difficult, I'm sure that anyone as clever as the people who wrote the software in this case are clever enough [to] come up with a program that will help to identify infringing items as well. I think the evidence shows that there's no desire to do that."

WMG KEEPS GROWING:
A $6B FISCAL '22
Cooper sets the table for Kyncl. (11/23a)
SONG REVENUE: TURKEY TROT
The Lipmans are thankful for their superstars. (11/25a)
THE LENNY BEER
PRE-HOLIDAY ALBUM
...with all the trimmings (11/25a)
NOISEMAKERS: A THANKFUL BUNCH
The kids are alright. (11/25a)
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS FROM STEVE COOPER
All good things come to an end. (11/23a)
GRAMMY SEASON
Artists sound off on the prospect of being nominated
CATALOG ECONOMICS
They're changing the game... for some.
VOTING AGAINST FASCISM
You're helping with the runoff, right?
IS IT CHRISTMAS YET?
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)