You probably heard the news about a little Russian company that claims to have the silver bullet that will end BitTorrent piracy once and for all. The confusingly named Pirate Pay (I love a pun) claims that its technology can stop any torrent dead. Now the former VP of engineering at BitTorrent Inc, John Pettitt, has pointed out that Pirate Pay might be more smoke and mirrors than Hollywood’s salvation.
Pirate Pay claims to have blocked nearly 45,000 illegal downloads of a film late last year in its first studio contract. The details are not clear, but it appears the technology supplies fake data to the torrent swarm, which causes clients to disconnect. Pettitt says the claims sound dubious. In fact, Pettitt believes that BitTorrent clients using the UDP protocol might not be affected at all. Since this is common in modern clients, Pirate Pay might only be blocking users of old software and those with UDP tracking disabled.
Pettitt also has a concern with the legality of the company’s practices. He likens flooding users with spoofed traffic from multiple servers to a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). DDoS attacks are usually the realm of blackhat hackers and activist collectives like Anonymous; not legitimate businesses.
Should the Pirate Pay technology actually work, there is serious risk that the wrong swarms will be targeted. If the company gets a little overzealous trying to protect a client’s content, and legitimate torrent traffic is blocked, there could be legal consequences. Even the rights holder that contracted for the anti-p2p service could end up in hot water.
The original story indicated that Microsoft had invested in the company, and that both Sony and Disney were customers. Perhaps lawyers are scurrying around now trying to figure out if Pirate Pay will end up being more trouble than it’s worth.
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