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ATPM 14.04
April 2008




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by Mark Tennent,


This DRM thing is starting to take some funny turns.

From next year, the UK government proposes to make it an obligation of ISPs to stop illegal file sharing in an attempt to combat piracy. Meanwhile, in America, a recent court ruling has put the knockers on the music industry’s fast-path copyright infringement cases against file sharers. It will not be enough for the RIAA to show that copyrights have been infringed by the contents of someone’s computer disks. They will have to prove the material was actually being distributed.

Just to muddy the waters even further, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has discovered that every track downloaded from iTunes contains, hidden inside, the name and e-mail address of the person who downloaded it.

Then Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert has put DVD unlocking into the hands of the average punter. It’s legal, and the more savvy of us knew about it years ago, but now everyone will be able to do it. The whole point of DVD locking was for the film studios to control distribution of their films, charging different prices around the world, and to stop the importing of films from cheaper regions. One stupid element is that while it is legal to import the films, it isn’t to buy them in the UK unless the British Board of Film Censors has approved them.

“Completely Ridiculous”

The government’s ideas of how to stop illegal file sharing appear to be completely ridiculous. ISPs will be able to see and block peer-to-peer connections, but how on earth are they meant to inspect every bit of data running through their wires? They are no more able to do this than a car manufacturer is of stopping people speeding. Besides, if peer-to-peer sharing is stopped, there are plenty more ways to share files, and with the rise of faster ADSL and cable connections, the need for bandwidth sharing peer-to-peer is far less.

Martin Pitt, co-owner of Aquiss, an Entanet reseller and my current ISP, explains that the bulk of off-peak traffic is file-sharers. The service deteriorates noticeably in the evening compared with daytime use when we often have nearly the whole bandwidth to ourselves. This is frustrating because, as digital designers whose whole work is distributed to our clients electronically, we often need to FTP files back and forth all night. As these contain copyrighted material, how will an ISP know which is legal or not?

Phorm Filling

Just to cloud the already murky depths, Martin also told me about a company called Phorm that has apparently been working with companies such as BT, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk to spy on users and log their browsing habits for the last year. This is so that advertisers can target their adverts more effectively.

All this DRM, spying, and suchlike is all very interesting, but it still doesn’t tell me how to get my protected iTunes tracks onto an MP3 CD that plays in my car. Apple has temporarily stopped the Hymn Project, a DRM stripper resource. So until a judge decides otherwise, it’s a case of copying the tracks to audio CD then reimporting back into iTunes as MP3s before copying back onto an MP3 CD.

What a chore when I have legally purchased the tracks and don’t want to lug an iPod around all the time. Especially as it can’t be operated by the sound system controls on my steering wheel. As for my details being stored inside iTunes downloads, who cares?

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