Music and P2P
History of Music Copying
Recording technology has changed and grown up since the first recording device, as the following history shows.
Music Sharing & Community - Free vs. Paying - Ease of Use
A point that should be discussed: what does "easier to use" mean? There are many ways of thinking about it, depending if we point out the user-friendliness of the GUI for the software we are using, or its performance. As in many cases, users of Peer-To-Peer applications are familiar with computers and do not need a "top" interface, but are much more interested in the features and the efficiency available.
Nowadays, almost all GUIs are based on the "Microsoft's Interfaces standard", to make the user feel "at home", so most use an interface similar to that of Windows OS. Ninety-nine percent of the currently available P2P applications have a similar interface design, with which 99% of the users can easily work.
However the big difference between "free" and "paying" might be the "help" feature. On "paying" applications, there is always a contextual help, more or less documented, and the user can at anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call the "support centre" for any problems. On the other hand, some free software's only provide a limited help, and often it is not possible to get a personalized answer. For those kinds of communities, the P2P "community" is the main place where you can get help, using a forum or the FAQs web pages provided.
All "music and file sharing" communities registered on the web have their own software, which handles the Peer-To-Peer connection and protocol. The difficulty that a user could be confronted with while installing it on their computer may be somewhat different, depending on whether the software is free or not. If it is paying, you can be sure that the installation is going to go smoothly in 99.99% of the cases, because the "provider" does not want to lose any potential clients. For free providers, the main goal of the developers might be not to spend too much time at this part of the software, but to develop a new underlying protocol. This is the case of freenet.com, whose aim is to provide and develop a reliable P2P protocol for the sharing of all kinds of file formats, and the people interested in their products are also mainly developers, so they are used to software installations.
In relation to the web sites of these P2P communities, it is worth noticing the huge difference of quality of their web sites. For most visited "paying" sites, there was a relatively clean page, without pop up windows (that are statistically very irritating for most users), and it was pleasant to spend time there (see MP3U.com). When surfing the free ones, there were two kinds: Some like "furthernet.com" are very clean, there are not too many advertisement banners, no pop ups, the information is clear and structured, and a site map is available. Contrary to this, others (like music-e.net) are a mess, with advertisement alerts and a lot of pop ups. I would not say that their web site provides a good insight into how their software works, but perhaps it does...
In order to measure if a P2P application is good or not, it should be probably be tested on all existing OS. But a common feature of free and paying applications is that most only provide a Windows version, without consideration of the Linux, Mac (etc…) users. Nevertheless, some have developed their own software using Java (furthernet.com), and so do not discriminate against some users.
As regards the cultural point of view, all users do not agree with some of the "illegal" features provided, for example, making it possible to download copyrighted music. Some paying communities only permit sharing of "allowed" files, and have a control on the shared data. Contrary to that, free P2P severs do not check music files and so take no responsibility for illegal content, but they encourage users to follow an "etiquette" and trust them not to share and download "illegal" files.
Almost all applications have the same features (advanced search, multi-source downloading, recovery of bad downloaded files), and some check the files integrity also. Some software's might not be fully debugged yet, because they are still a beta-version (furthernet.com). But the main features are working properly, and only a handful of users actually use the most advanced features, which are more likely to be faulty.
The main difference between free and paid-for community is the quantity of shared data. The paying communities have many more files to share, because they work "together" with the music industry (e.g. Napster and Bertelsmann working together on a new kind of music sharing community), and the user pays a reasonable price for a larger choice, so these communities have rapidly expanded. But the free communities tend to have more users due to the fact that their files are free.
The idea of belonging to a community nowadays is very important, as many users like to chat with people with similar musical tastes. And from that point of view the free communities are more popular, as the users are more eager to help one another, in relation to specific songs, etc…
In conclusion, when comparing whether paying communities are easier to use than free ones, there is no point dealing with this question, because as a rule, what is free is not always as easy to use. If it were not so, then what did we invent money for? (!)Music piracy becoming easier /harder
It is certainly becoming harder, but there will always be hackers who will manage to overcome the problems, and the fact that it is very difficult to check every peer-to-peer connection in so a huge network as Internet could help them.
Music Industry - Help or Hinder? New Artists vs. Supporting Artists.
There are two very conflicting sides to the controversial argument whether or not p2p has helped or hindered the music industry. However the P2P technology in itself is not what causes the controversy. The problem arises when we begin to ask the question of exactly who is sharing music with who, and how much, if anything, is the receiver paying for the services. Sharing of copyrighted material is currently classed as piracy, and is a prosecutable offence in most states, and as such prosecution on these terms is becoming more and more widespread.
Most famously, of course, it is the technologies such as p2p, which provided the means by which the controversial website napster.com was set up. Users could freely download vast numbers of copyrighted materials from the web, and there was no charge for the service. Many top artists were outraged by the developments, and international campaigns were launched in order to outlaw music piracy on the Internet, for example in the United States, many musicians joined forces to form Artists Against Piracy, artists such as Christina Aguilera, Blink-182 and Garth Brooks. On 13th of July 2000, chart-topping band The Corrs joined the international campaign. They argued:
"Most people would not dream of stealing a CD from their local record store. In the same way, we don't think it is cool to go cyber-shoplifting."
The Irish quartet then became the official voice of the European music industry as it battles to stop the illegal recording and downloading of songs from the web.
At that time, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, (IFPI) which looks after recording artists, estimated that there were more than 25 million illegal music "files" available for trading on the internet. They also claimed that around 600,000 jobs within the industry could be at stake if drastic action was not taken soon.
Another point made by the Corrs was on the issue of the many different businesses, and hence the a vast number of employees, that depend on the music industry for their livelihoods, quoting:
"It is not just the musicians. A lot of time, effort and money goes into the production of our CDs, involving record producers and technicians whose interests have to be protected………We have done OK, but we have got to protect the new artists who need the capital to keep going."
A lot of these claims can be quite easily rebutted. Statistics from the same year that the Artists Against Piracy initiative was launched, showed that Album sales had in fact increased by 16% compared to the previous year, so it is very difficult to argue, faced with such statistics, that the industry is actually suffering.
As for the claim that the industry should be there to protect the interest of new artists, there is also equal evidence that P2P technologies can be used to actually promote the work of up and coming artists. The net is absolutely brimming with previously unknown artists' websites, who with the aid of P2P technology can allow people from anywhere in the world to sample their music, and thus they can drastically increase the chances that their band may be discovered.
Many artists themselves actually support the downloadable music industry. Chuck D and Limp Bizkit have long since supported MP3 and Napster. Artists like these use the industry to their advantage by launching special downloadable samples from albums just before they are released, in order to increase publicity for their newest album. These practices have certainly done nothing to affect the artists' popularity.
At present Napster are in a "Work in Progress" stage, and are effectively closed for business at present. They will be offering a pay services for downloadable MP3s in the future. HMV have announced the launch of their new pay per download service.
However it is extremely unclear what the future will be to these P2P technologies and in particular the future of the e-businesses, which are supported by them. One can only hope that in the long term that the primary beneficiary of these technologies will be the users and the musicians that entertain them, and not, as it appears today, the ever greedy corporate music industry.
The Corrs BBC News Thursday, 13 July 2000, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/832065.stm
Technologies for preventing music piracy
As the piracy of copyrighted music continues to grow within the P2P community, many technologies are being developed to try and ‘protect’ this music. This problem is far from solved – in fact many observers believe that a full solution will never be possible. Currently, even the strongest advances made in encryption or watermarking of MP3 files are routinely defeated within weeks.
Streaming technology allows music to be sent (generally, over the Internet) to a consumer for listening, but doesn’t allow a permanent copy to be retained on his computer. In this way, it could be envisaged that a user would pay for access to a website, where music could then be downloaded for a fee, and listened to there and then. Of course, this solution doesn’t extend well at the moment to a situation where the user wishes to play the music while not at a computer.
Although it is one of the simplest and most popular solutions for online music sites at the moment, it is not very robust. There are many tools and utilities available to allow the music to be stored as it is played from the program. At the most extreme level, the signal being sent to the sound card itself is digital and unencrypted – all that is required is for this to be intercepted and saved in an insecure format on the computer.
A different idea to this is that of ‘watermarking’ – an idea similar to the watermark on banknotes – where an imperceptible signal is embedded into a music file in an effort to allow players to detect forgeries. However, the implementation of such a watermark has many requirements, for example:
It must be inaudible – the song should sound exactly the same as before.
It must be present throughout the entire song (otherwise it would be easy to simply ‘chop’ a piece off a song for free).
>It must be ‘robust’ – that is, altering part of the song (for example, reducing its volume by a tiny amount) should not change or disable the information contained within the watermark.
It should be relatively small to the size of the music file (the main reason for the popularity of MP3s is the speed with which they can be downloaded and distributed).
It should be computationally efficient (although processing power of PCs continues to grow, the handheld device market, for example, needs to be taken into account).
Most importantly, it must be somehow ‘woven’ through the entire song so that any attempt to remove it would degrade the quality of the song to unacceptable levels.
The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) is a forum consisting of hundreds of interested parties, which is trying to develop a comprehensive strategy against music piracy. With watermarking technology in place, together with other supporting technologies in hardware and software, it would be possible to place various ‘signals’ within the music track to record copyright information. This would also hold details such as whether ‘SDMI-compliant’ equipment should be able to play or record the piece.
It is also envisaged that different licenses – such as being allowed to play the track once only, or for a period of 24 hours – could be made available by this method. This highlights the interesting social aspect of piracy protection: if it is easier for consumers to pay for content, they will do so. The era of music-sharing on Napster came to a sticky end because thousands of people each day were realising that this community made it easier to download an album than buy it, taking into account the relative costs. If MP3 files took 10 times as long to download, or if the service was flooded with ‘fakes’ (such as some record companies are doing now), the majority of consumers would choose to pay.
By offering consumers more choice in how they pay for music, the industry is latching on to a key strategy. The secret really lies in a dual strategy: on the one hand, creating a protection scheme that is convenient, cheap and impenetrable (ideally proven mathematically unbreakable!) – while on the other hand, engineering the transaction of paying for music to be as painless and customisable as possible.
P2P – Music – Governments, Music Industry, and ISPs.P2P technology has recently come under scrutiny by governments, ISPs and the Music Industry, etc. Napster initially captured the interest of these and many others, and so each area is now in the process of exploiting P2P technology for their own benefit.
Currently the main use of P2P by the public is music sharing. As a result governments are interested in the area of copyright, intellectual rights and privacy, ISPs are interested in how much bandwidth is being used and responsibility, and of course the Music Industry is interested in profits or losses as a result of file sharing. The issue the general public tends to be interested in is how to get free stuff – quickly, and privately.
Currently P2P technology such as Freenet, Gnutella, and Morpheus etc, provides users with stores of music to download for free. The other matter is that due to the design of P2P it is very hard to monitor the traffic for each user, and as the technology develops it is only going to get harder. Herein lies the problem, free files, without monitoring.
Governments especially in the current political climate (“war on terrorism”) will not let P2P technology develop without their involvement, or intrusion. In the area of music sharing there are issues with copyrighted material and unmonitored traffic. Governments must lead the way and protect those with copyrighted material, as it is the government that provided the framework for these laws in the first place.
But in order to enforce these laws, they must be able to monitor traffic on the P2P network. Whether this is done by the government, or passed onto others such as the ISP is another matter. Currently there are two proposals; make either the server or the user responsible for unauthorized copyrighted material. And so, this leads to the problem of how to detect if a user has accessed unauthorized material, and this of course raises the issue of privacy.
In the European Union there is currently a proposal to amend EU Data Protection Directives, in order to ensure that ISPs keep information on all users of their network. Website addresses, emails, phone numbers etc must be recorded, but the actual content should not be recorded. In the EU there are only two countries objecting to this idea, Germany and Austria. The idea is to keep this information for up to two years, and should this amendment to the Directive be passed, it is not presumptuous to say that in the future they will also perhaps want a list of all files that were sent and received from each system user.
ISPsAnd so the authorities have passed the problems onto the ISPs and servers. If the servers have to undertake the responsibilities of monitoring the actions of all users, and have to deal with the legal consequences of users accessing and storing unauthorized music, this obviously leads to restrictions for users. Servers then have to decide whether to trust users or to monitor the users. The obvious option is to monitor the users, as this may already have to be done in order to comply with EU regulations. So it now provides an opportunity to monitor more heavily under the guise of regulatory compliance. Therefore those users found with or suspected to have pirated music may be taken off the network, or have their files deleted. This is already happening, ISPs that provide unlimited broadband access, have now realized that their costs are going up. Users running P2P technology mainly for music sharing are now utilizing much more bandwidth than previously, and so the ISP has to provide solutions to cope with the increasing traffic. In order to pass the cost onto the users of the server, the ISPs have come up with a number of solutions, one of which is to charge per amount of data downloaded, and full time monitoring will do this. But ISPs are not the only area that will exploit the possibilities of P2P.
Music IndustryThe Music Industry has had great reservations about file sharing systems, and the ease with which pirated material can be obtained. The past year has apparently seen a fall in the sale of music throughout the world, and the music industry has decided that this is due to users sharing music over the Internet rather than paying for it in the shops. Rather than seeing P2P as a new way in which to distribute music, it has been decided that all P2P technology should be labelled with anti-corporate tactics. However this just refers to the corporate side of the music industry, as P2P does in fact benefit new and unsigned artists to increase their listener scope. But it seems that the corporate side of the Music Industry are finally coming around to the idea of P2P, they have seen that it is not a short-term technology and so they must adapt. Companies such as BMG are now releasing their database of music tracks to different Internet sites that will charge a small fee to download each one. This has marked a change in the corporate view of P2P; they will allow the use of P2P so long as they can make money out of it. However it will come as no surprise that if this initiative by the corporate music industry fails, that a whole new set of increasingly restrictive laws surrounding music copyright will be implemented – and enforced.
The Future of P2PThe most important issue with P2P technology is privacy. In order for the users to reap the benefits of this technology, specific guidelines should be set out. There must be a point at which the authorities place some trust in the users. Users should be allowed to download music without being monitored. However under the current political climate, in which the largest power in the world having declared a war on terrorism, and with most of the rest of the Western World following suit, especially the EU, it seems that the authorities have found a wild card that can allow for the invasion of privacy of all citizens. The latest EU Directive that requires information to be held on all citizens about their communications, (all phone calls, geographic location of phone when switched on, and all emails addresses, and URLs), indicates that users in these areas do not have a say in their right to privacy. Perhaps the next development in P2P technology will be a ubiquitous mandatory police network.
BMG and Napster
The Free Haven Project
Protecting free expression online with Freenet
Clarke, I.; Miller, S.G.; Hong, T.W.; Sandberg, O.; Wiley, B.
IEEE Internet Computing, Volume: 6 Issue: 1,Jan.-Feb. 2002
EU Data Protection Directives