The irony is not lost on those writing about it: Sharman Networks, owner of the music-swapping program Kazaa (a Napster imitatator) is closing down Kazaalite K++, a version written by other folk that was designed to do what Kazaa does without all the spyware and adware. They complained about it infringing copyright, or something.
The irony continues: Although the main download site is down, users can apparently still obtain copies via the Kazaa network: In other words, use the Kazaa program to find the ‘illegal’ version of Kazaa to download music (illegally).
What strikes me is on the discussion sites (here’s Metafilter and Slashdot), you realise just how many other similar programs there are to Kazaa, or Kazaalite. I guess online music swapping in one form or another is going to continue as long as there are clever programmers out there.
The Federal Trade Commission has accused a California pop-up advertising company of digital-age extortion. MSNBC reports that D Squared Solutions allegedly hijacked Internet users’ computers by bombarding them with Windows Messenger pop-up ads — as frequently as every 10 minutes. The ads hawked $30 software that promised only to stop future pop-ups from the company.
Windows Messenger is a different beast to Microsoft’s Messenger: it’s supposed to be used for system administrators to send out bulletins to users. Instead D Squared used it to blast annoying messages. The FTC is accusing them of extortion, and with websites like Blockmessenger.com, Endads.com, SaveYourPrivacy.com. and Fightmessenger.com under their control I suspect they have a case.
A rose by any other name? CNET reports that Gator, the controversial advertising software and e-wallet company, has “changed its name to better reflect its business in behavioral marketing”. The change, CNET says, distances the company from a name that has become synonymous with “spyware”–that is, ad-tracking software that can be installed surreptitiously.
Despite landing such Fortune 500 advertisers as American Express and Target, the company has had difficulty dispelling the negative connotations of its software. It also has faced several lawsuits for its advertising practices. In recent weeks it has gone on the offensive, launching a legal offensive to divorce its name from the hated term ‘spyware’, with some success. In response to a libel lawsuit, antispyware company PC Pitstop has settled with Gator and pulled Web pages critical of the company, its practices and its software.
Sometimes I wonder what the Internet is going to look like a year down the track. Spam, viruses, and now the RIAA are changing the landscape. Here’s what : network spying. ZDNet reports that the University of Wyoming and a company called Audible Magic are developing technology that looks inside students’ file swaps for copyrighted music, with an eye toward ultimately blocking the transfer of such material.
Audible Magic’s technology specialises in identifying songs by their digital “fingerprints”, or acoustic characteristics. By joining up with a company called Palisade which provides network-security technology, the joint product is designed to intercept all traffic on a network, make a copy of it, and then make a running examination of that copy for items such as Kazaa or Gnutella traffic. When it finds digital packets originating from file-swapping software packages, it will compare the contents against Audible Magic’s database of fingerprints. If it finds a match to a copyrighted song, it will stop the transmission of a song in progress, even if some of the file has already been transferred.
The software is aimed at networks like universities and ISPs, who can of course refuse to install it. But what happens when the music business starts sueing them, as well as end users?
Here’s one way to get rid of spyware and adware — software that’s inveigled its way onto your computer and is phoning home on your browsing habits, usually to throw unwanted ads onto your screen. interMute, Inc. has released a new version of SpySubtract, that detects and safely removes spyware and security threats, which includes a special feature to wipeout software from Gator Corp. – a major Web pop-up advertising company that uses spyware technology to profile and target users.
SpySubtract’s free version allows PC users to easily detect and remove spyware. For $29.95, users can upgrade to SpySubtract PRO, which provides spyware database updates to protect against newly discovered spyware and worms.
Bad news for those of you who hate pop-up ads: A U.S. federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by truck and trailer rental company U-Haul which sought to ban software by Internet advertising company WhenU that launched rival pop-up ads when customers access U-Haul’s Web site, Reuters reports.
The judge said the ads don’t violate the law because WhenU’s software didn’t copy or use U-Haul’s trademark or copyright material, and because computer users themselves had chosen to download the pop-up software. He acknowledged that pop-up ads are often troublesome and annoying. “Alas, we computer users must endure pop-up advertising along with her ugly brother unsolicited bulk e-mail, ‘spam’, as a burden of using the Internet,” he wrote. I don’t want to be rude to a judge, but I just don’t buy that argument.
If you’re in the U.S., and have ever used Grokster, KaZaa or another file sharing program to download mp3 files, expect a call. The RIAA are out to get you, and they don’t care whether you’re a granny. According to Associated Press, one 50 year-old grandfather in California was shocked to learn this week that the RIAA had subpoenaed his ISP to provide his name and address for downloading songs from the internet. But the man was not the downloader – it was a member of his family.
The RIAA has served subpoenas to Internet service providers, which will ultimately end in lawsuits. TechTV has published a number of the P2P user names filed with the US District Court in Washington, DC, mainly Kazaa users. In the end this list could be massive, raising the possibility of a backlash and a half.
My tupennies’ worth? I think the RIAA should have been more circumspect. My understanding is that the vast majority of mp3 files out there are from a small number of uploaders, and if they can be closed down, the file-sharing world will be less appealing. Get rid of them and you may have little more than an informal ‘tasting net’ where folk can check out music without having to pay for it first (a little like the old cassette days). Or am I being hopelessly romantic?
PestPatrol, Inc. “the leading developer of security software to detect and eliminate spyware, adware, trojans and hacker tools from corporate networks and home user PCs” (I don’t know whether there’s any limit on the length of phrase companies can claim they are the best at, but I’ll faithfully reproduce them here; maybe we can have a competition sometime for the silliest one) have launched the first
comprehensive online spyware detection service. For free.
PestScan from PestPatrol is a web-based program that runs right from the PestPatrol website, downloading just a few small components to the user’s computer. It is designed to provide a quick and easy way to scan Windows PCs for spyware, keyloggers, and other computer pests in the places they are most likely to be hiding. The PestScan results link directly to PestPatrol’s extensive pest information database, enabling users to find out exactly what the threat level is.
I haven’t tried this yet. Let me know how it works for you.
Good news for Gator, the adware company I wrote about a few weeks back. According to CNET News.com a federal court has ruled that pop-up ads for rivals of U-Haul International, placed atop the moving company’s own site by a third-party software application from WhenU.com, are legal.
Although the case doesn’t involve Gator Corp, it may well have an impact on them. Gator, like WhenU.com, peddles an Internet “helper” application that dishes ads up to people while they are surfing the Web or visiting specific sites — usually over the top of, or near, those of rivals. The judge granted WhenU’s motion to dismiss charges of trademark infringement, unfair competition and copyright infringement.
CNET says: “The early decision could influence lawsuits involving a more well-known ad-software, or “adware,” company, Gator Corporation.” In February, Gator settled a case brought by among other media companies, Dow Jones, which publish the newspaper, website and magazine I write for. Other lawsuits, CNET says, have been consolidated and will be decided by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Washington, D.C.