Tag Archives: Kazaa

Could The Fake Beheading Have Been Proven Earlier?

I know it’s easy to be smart after the event, but were there enough clues on the Internet for journalists to have figured out the Benjamin Vanderford video was a fake before AP and others published the news?

There were some clues, at least. From the video we were able to know his name and his home town, even his home address. From that checks on Google would have thrown up the following at the very least:

  • Him, or someone with the same name, was running for office:  A piece on The Examiner website on May 31 mentions “Benjamin Vanderford, 22-year-old political independent, musician and video-game programmer” as being a District 4 candidate and a member of something called the Candidates Collaborative.
  • sfbulldog, an online resource for politics and the arts, also mentions Vanderford, or someone with the same name on May 22, who was, according to the author H Brown, “smarter than me (not saying a lot, I know) … has great web site and hell of a sense of humor. Fine young writer. A future in politics if he’s serious and could shock everyone if his web site catches on.” Unfortunately the website address mentioned is not cited. (It was possibly this one, mentioned on the Northeast Intelligence Network in its early assessment of the video but not cited. The link itself is no longer active.)

Already, however, we’re getting a picture of someone who seems likely to be the Vanderford in question, since he’s from that town, appears to be the same age, and is the only Benjamin Vanderford in San Francisco area. He’s also a guy with a sense of humour, running for office, smart and with a website worth checking out. What’s he doing in Iraq, and why is there no mention of that fact?

That, I suspect, should be enough. Did any journalists try calling his home to confirm? Vanderford says he had circulated the video on P2P networks such as KaZaA for several weeks. Would a savvy journalist have been aware of this? Perhaps not. But as the The San Francisco Chronicle points out, usually material which is gathered from the Internet carries qualifying phrases. But this time the fact that the video had appeared on a Islamic website that has in the past posted communiques and videos from Islamic radical groups appeared to be enough to convince several news agencies to go ahead.

Bottom line: Any material that appears on the Internet should be checked, wherever it appears. In this case, with the guy’s name and address so clearly stated, it would seem to make sense to make some rudimentary checks first before announcing he has been killed.

Kazaa Gets Tough — On Copyright Infringement

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.

News: Software turns iTunes Into MP3 Downloader

 Sometimes I wonder whether it’s ever going to be possible to produce a watertight way of limiting access to digital music. Take Apple’s very popular iTunes, for example. CNET reports that an independent software developer has created a program that lets users of iTunes for Windows grab song files from other people on a computer network, using a streaming feature already available in iTunes. The MyTunes software fits neatly into iTunes and, unlike Apple’s software which makes no permanent copy of the song, captures that “stream” of music, making a copy that can be burned to a CD, uploaded to the Net or streamed to another PC.
 
As CNET says, “while stream recording is not new–a myriad programs exist for recording Web radio and other streaming Net services for Windows and Macintosh computers–the ease with which the MyTunes software fits into iTunes pushes the experience to a new, and perhaps legally risky, level. Running the program makes creating your own MP3 songs from someone else’s collection as easy or easier than grabbing MP3s via traditional file-swapping software like Kazaa. That could complicate things for Apple, which depends on the music industry’s support–and indeed, has won unprecedented kudos from labels and artists–for its iTunes music store.”

News: From Kazaa To Skype

 From Estonia comes news that the guys behind file-swapping legend Kazaa are launching an Internet phone service they claim could put traditional phone companies out of business. AP says the service, called Skype, purports to offer free, unlimited phone service between users with sound quality near to existing phone lines.
 
 
Skype users — and there are already more than half a million of them — can currently use the program only to talk to each other, but it could later be enhanced so someone could call other types of programs, or even regular landline and cell phones. The program directs peer-to-peer data through the quickest networks, ensuring that quality isn’t degraded. Privacy is ensured through encryption.
 
 

News: Spying On The Internet

 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?
 

News: The RIAA Are After You

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?