p2pnet.net News:- Kai Stinchcome is a first year doctoral student in political science at Stanford University and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) caught his attention.
He says the RIAA’s sue ‘em all policy could lead increasing numbers of people to anonymous, encrypted technology and, "The only effect will be that other encrypted traffic, such as communication among terrorists, will also become impossible for the U.S. government to trace."
Now read on >>>>>>>>>>
RIAA lawsuits help terrorists
By Kai Stinchcombe – Stanford University
It’s a cliche these days: The Bush drug czar says smoking pot helps terrorists; John Ashcroft says Senate oversight of the Justice Department helps terrorists and Arianna Huffington says driving SUVs helps terrorists. Why shouldn’t file-swapping college students jump on the bandwagon and accuse the recent crackdown on file-sharing as helping the terrorists?
It’s a fact. Though deterring online music piracy is a worthy goal, the new lawsuits launched by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against alleged music sharers will have little effect on piracy and will significantly hinder U.S. antiterrorism efforts.
To explain why, a quick look at the history of file-swapping is in order. The first major peer-to-peer network, Napster, featured centralized servers that processed users’ searches. When the RIAA sued them for aiding copyright infringement, the servers were quickly shut down. Two types of successors jumped in to fill the gap. First were overseas servers, who hoped (mostly in vain) to stay beyond the reach of the long arm of U.S. law enforcement. Second, architectures such as Gnutella and Kazaa avoided law enforcement by decentralizing search functions, making users responsible for searching as well as transfer, sharing and storage. Within just a few months, millions of users had adopted the new technology to sidestep to the RIAA’s legal assault.
Lacking central search servers to attack, the RIAA’s new tactic is to sue individual users who allow others to copy their music illegally. For the moment, this may scare a handful of users away from music sharing. But inevitably the market will adjust to this legal attack. With approximately a hundred million users out there, there is a large incentive to provide a file-swapping technology with which users feel comfortable.
Time and again, the authors of music-sharing programs have managed to stay one step ahead of the law. If the RIAA lawsuits continue, the outcome will likely be a switch to something like Freenet, a technology promoted by cyber-libertarians that makes it impossible to trace the author, origin, destination and content of documents. Individual Freenet users have no way of even knowing what files they are storing, effectively blocking any assignment of responsibility for content. Two million users have already downloaded the software. Even if Freenet itself is not the next big file-swapping technology, whatever replaces Kazaa and Gnutella will surely rival Freenet in encryption and anonymity.
Currently, the bulk of encrypted traffic on the Internet is within the government or between known companies. The National Security Agency is able to monitor or selectively decrypt much of the rest. If the RIAA lawsuits continue, millions of college students are going to start using strong encryption to pass terabytes of MP3s across the Internet. The computers at the NSA will be completely overwhelmed. Not only will they be unable to determine who is copying illegal MP3s, they will also not pick up conversations among terrorists planning new bombings, hijackings or other attacks.
Freenet’s proponents argue that it makes censorship almost impossible and point to its growing use in China and the Middle East, where it addresses a real need. Yet secure, anonymous communication technology is not an unmitigated good. There are tradeoffs in limiting governments’ capacity to monitor communication, and these tradeoffs must be acknowledged.
Hard-core libertarians have advocated that everyone switch to encrypted e-mail to overwhelm government computers. A more balanced perspective might recognize that while we don’[t want the government spying on what books we check out of the library, there are good reasons for the NSA to monitor some communications. A smart policy would restrict activities likely to tempt political abuse and allow those useful in fighting terrorism. It’s difficult to choose between preventing repeats of the FBI smear campaign against Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders and preventing events like Sept. 11. These tradeoffs can only be resolved through democratic political debate.
But our democratic decision-making process is in danger of being undermined. If the RIAA lawsuits continue to intimidate millions of music-swappers, more and more of them will choose anonymous, encrypted technology that allows them to swap music even more confidently. The only effect will be that other encrypted traffic, such as communication among terrorists, will also become impossible for the U.S. government to trace. If we are going to blindfold the NSA at the cost of our national security, it should be a deliberate decision rather than an unintended consequence of an RIAA ‘sue your fans’ policy that is already doomed to failure.