Travis Hill Interview

Zeropaid:
Can you explain the application that you’ll be releasing in the next couple of days?
Are they useful to the average user/who would be interested in using
programs like mediaenforcer v. 1.0?
Are you the only developer involved?
Who are your supporters?

Media:
The only publicly announced application is the new revision of Media
Enforcer. It has many improvements- a new UI, much more efficient
searching, support for all Napster servers including OpenNap, DNS lookups,
and a comparison feature to identify people who do not respond to requests
to remove a given item. I’m the only developer involved with that
particular application. There might be a few surprises here and there on
the release day but you’ll have to wait and find out.

I’ve heard from numerous artists, managers, and songwriters. It’s nice to
know I’m not the only one trying to take a stance against piracy.

Zeropaid:
What is the purpose of creating programs like mediaenforcer, are you
protecting IP or fighting a internet revolution that demands digital information be
free?

Media: My purpose has been to protect intellectual property, but I suppose if there is going to be a
‘revolution’ then I’d be fighting that too. It’s hard to do one without the
other. Parts of the Internet community may think they want a revolution
against intellectual property- but the mainstream does not. Many people seem to have a hard
time accepting that. Most people I talk to simply repeat the rhetoric of a
revolution, but all they really want is free stuff. They say “The RIAA
rapes me, I will fight them!” and “Information cannot have a price!” but
what they are really saying is “Give me music, movies, software, everything
for free- because that’s better than paying for it!” It’s not the high and
holy purpose that they try to convey.

Zeropaid: What’s your take on these new file-sharing applications that are popping
up every day?
Do you feel networks like Swapoo/Yon!k/Filetopia/SongSpy etc. have a
fighting chance in court or in your hands?

Media: Industries whose property can easily be transferred to a digital format have
gotten a wakeup call. I don’t think you’ll see anyone being able to make a
real success of mainstream piracy- copycats will be fought in courts, the
users will be tracked using software systems like Media Enforcer, and as a
result users will be held accountable also. Adoption of these services will
slow down when people realize there are consequences to indiscriminately
distributing other people’s property.

Zeropaid: On the subject of freenet,
What do you think of Ian Clarke’s declaration that he plans on stay on the
“right side of the law” with his new company Uprizer?

Media: Well I have to give Ian credit where credit is due- he is apparently diving
in with at least some sort of business plan, which is more than anyone could
say for Napster. I believe him when he says that his new company will stay
on the “right side of the law.” It’s a bad thing to skirt around the law as
an individual, but a whole other thing to allow a company in the public eye
to do it. I’m sure Ian is smart enough to keep a solid company image- you
need one to really bring in a revenue stream. Freenet itself is a whole
other ballgame, but I’ll keep that separate.

Zeropaid: Do you think individual nodes on freenet
should be held responsible for information splitting/passing through them?

Media: Yes. In fact, I would venture to say given the structure of Freenet, that
any active node would be massively violating IP laws. Anything that either
facilitates or directly contributes to illegal distribution can be held
responsible. All Freenet nodes would do exactly that. I don’t think anyone
denies it.

Zeropaid: Ian Clarke claims the hole you found was mentioned in a public e-mail, why
are you not willing to discuss the problem openly?
Why have you not publicly announced your name, what are you so afraid of by
not ?

Media: There are a few separate issues here. First off, there are two different
ways of going about Freenet. One would be a design flaw. Obviously the
primary place for a design flaw would be in the search mechanism, which I wo
n’t comment on since it doesn’t exist in a live application. You have to
have a mechanism for finding keys or else no one would ever use Freenet.
The second issue is plain traffic monitoring. If I send a request for key
“Top40 Pop Song.mp3” and a system or systems start to send me segments to
reassemble, I know after checking the contents of the file that those
systems were violating the law. Simple enough.

I’m not afraid of anything. It was just a matter of not wanting media
attention in the early stages so I could focus on the task at hand. My name
is Travis Hill, I’m a full time software developer/database consultant, with
a hobby of music production. I live in Utah. I’ve been doing
digital-communication related projects for years, from building a BBS system
to architecting an instant messenger product. Feel better now?

Zeropaid: Can you explain why intellectual property should be given a value?
If you can, please Why do you think file-sharing applications like napster or gnutella hurt IP?

Media: Intellectual property is just that, property. It exists because people have
felt the need for it, that’s why we have laws, so we have a way to structure
things. A computer itself is property and has value, just like the software
sitting on it. One you can touch, the other you can’t. People have wanted
that kind of property treated the same.

Moving into more and more of a digital world we must treat it the same or
there will be no incentive financial or otherwise to create high quality IP.
That’s why it would hurt- we wouldn’t have the kind of things we have
available to us now if property owners aren’t allowed to control their
property.

Whether you agree or disagree with someone’s intellectual property marketing tactics, it is
their property to succeed or fail with. We can’t take away the choices
involved, or else we are actually taking away a freedom.

Zeropaid: What’s your take on the FBI’s carnivore?

Media: That system could be scary. All I do is look at things that people have
explicitly made public and available from their machines- but that system is
used to monitor email communication. I hope that they use the system
responsibly and that they and ISPs don’t start monitoring communication by a
normal individual that is meant to be private. Arguments about privacy to
systems like that actually have weight- unlike claims that logging what you
make public is an invasion of privacy.

Zeropaid:
Give us your thoughts on the upcoming events surrounding napster and the file-sharing world?
Will napster prevail in court or will the RIAA continue to get rich off artists?

Media: Napster won’t prevail. I don’t think any reasonable person actually
believes Sean created Napster for any other reason besides taking pirated
music out of obscurity and into the mainstream. He said it. He’s said it
in public forums, and in IRC back when he was trying to get Napster spread
around, before it was a mainstream utility. Don’t you remember the early
days of #napster?

I find it strange that any fan of Napster would dare engage the argument
that it is OK to pirate, as long as some guy in a suit has a truckload of
money. What does that have to do with anything? To talk with businessmen,
demonstrate with the almighty dollar. Believe me, the industry will change
in a heartbeat to match supply and demand like any good business system.
But as of yet any type of dollar based demonstration has failed, so what is
the motivation to change? The demand is there, and cost is relative to
demand.

If you want to talk more Napster, let me draw an example. Let’s see, they
got $15mil or so in VC funding, right? Now what is the purpose of that
money? To get a nice return. You front the money, you get a substantial
amount of the profits. It’s called investing. Strangely enough, Napster’s
situation is identical to that of an artist. Someone who sees potential in
an artist fronts the money for the production and promotional costs, and
expects a substantial amount of those profits in return. If the system were
broken, there wouldn’t be thousands of artists banging down the doors of A&R
begging to be heard. They all want someone to take a chance on them, and if
any of them sign a contract without knowing exactly what it entails, that is
their fault, no one else’s. If they don’t want to go the established route,
let them go for it on their own. The established groups have much more
experience and are much more likely to build a successful project with an
artist than an artist is by themselves. That is why many artists are
willing to go that way- they have a better shot of making money that way
than trying to handle it all themselves.

I’ve already gotten mailed about this, so I thought I’d bring it up here.

Before someone brings up the lawsuit pending against the Majors for their
Minimum Advertised Price, and says “Ah-ha! They *are* incredibly abusive
entities with no intrinsic value!”:

Prices were being set at a lowest level so all retailers could compete on
equal ground. This is common practice for all kinds of businesses outside
of the music industry. For example, software companies do this through
their channels to enhance competition.

It absolutely does not affect how much money a label or the industry makes.
We are talking about the minimum advertised price for retail, not wholesale.
The wholesale price is a separate, distinct thing. That’s where the money
is made by the industry. If this particular issue was about the Majors
trying to make more money, they would be bumping wholesale costs like mad,
not trying to keep an even retail ground. Just thought I’d clear that up.