Anti-piracy company tells Congress it can eliminate College P2P

SafeMedia Corp challenged colleges and universities to work to eliminate illegal P2P file-sharing of copyrighted material on campus networks in testimony before the House Committee on Science and Technology.

The House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing today called “The Role of Technology in Reducing Illegal File-sharing: A University Perspective” which focused on the experiences of universities that have implemented technological measures to reduce P2P sharing on campus networks.

In his testimony, SafeMedia Corporation CEO and Founder, Safwat Fahmy, challenged colleges and universities to work to eliminate illegal P2P file-sharing of copyrighted material on campus networks and then briefed the committee on SafeMedia products designed to address the illegal sharing of copyrighted materials on campus P2P networks.

“Some colleges and universities have been reluctant to adopt effective policies to deal with illegal file-sharing. Some cite student privacy as a concern for refusing to stop clearly illegal file-sharing, but how does it protect student privacy to allow P2P file-sharing services to freely roam students’ computer hard drives for folders and documents without their explicit permission?” asked Fahmy in his testimony to the committee. “I would ask if there isn’t a double standard here. Colleges and universities are fiercely protective of their own intellectual property. Why are they so cavalier when it comes to the intellectual property of others?”

Fahmy then briefed the Committee on SafeMedia’s global “P2P Disaggregator”(P2PD), technology which is designed to destroy contaminated P2P networks by draining the illegal content of those networks, and then conveniently offered up Clouseau as a tool for “immediate implementation” to combat campus piracy. “Universities can purchase Clouseau for immediate implementation…(it) will detect and prohibit illegal P2P traffic while allowing the passage of legal P2P such as BitTorrent. Clouseau is inexpensive. Users simply plug it in the subnet as a bridge and it goes to work without altering their network topology.”

Since 1998, the year that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed to govern online copyright infringement, the music industry is reported to have sent nearly 60,000 copyright violation notices to more than 1,000 campuses to date, claiming that some 1.3 billion tracks are illegally downloaded each year. The movie industry also claims that they lose some $250 million USD to campus piracy annually.

Campuses generally have two means for dealing with illegal P2P file-sharing on their networks. A significant majority of campuses approach the issue by using traffic-shaping systems to control and modify the rate of file transmissions on their networks. A smaller number of campuses have deployed network-filtering systems, which seek to block transmission of copyrighted material by identifying the content of copyright-infringing files.

Both traffic-shaping and the current network-filtering systems were unable to capture any of the encrypted illegal P2P-traffic (encryption is used in 90 percent of all illegal P2P downloads), and as such, the results were not accurate and were less than marginal. “SafeMedia’s technology P2PD is capable of capturing and stopping all encrypted or non encrypted illegal P2P transmissions, while allowing all legal encrypted or non-encrypted P2P transmission,” said Fahmy.

“I take very seriously the concern about preserving personal computing privacy,” said Fahmy in a separate interview. “That is why our P2PD implemented in Clouseau never opens any transmission packets. Rather, we monitor the ever-changing and adapting myriad of illegal P2P protocols/networks and continually update our systems to block only these illegal transmissions.”

According to Fahmy, traffic-shaping is not effective in reclaiming bandwidth, nor does it eliminate, “the outright theft of copyrighted material via P2P file-sharing on campus networks.” Fahmy stresses the need for campuses to take more drastic measures by implementing technologies to effectively “stop illegal P2P file-sharing in its tracks, thereby reclaiming up to two-thirds of campus bandwidth currently used for illicit purposes.”

Now Fahmy claims that Clouseau won’t block “legitimate” or “legal P2P” programs like BitTorrent but, how does it determine this distinction from a content point of view? How will it know if I downloaded a file from BitTorrent Inc. or Legal Torrents and not the Pirate Bay or TorrentSpy? Certainly it must if it is to effectively block the illegal transfer of copyrighted material. Yet, if it isn’t, once again we’ll see BitTorrent Inc. and other companies who use P2P technology to transfer data and content being slowly shut out of the marketplace as fear of getting sued for copyright infringement spreads.

Other witnesses who testified today included: Dr. Charles Wight, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Undergraduate Studies, University of Utah; Dr. Adrian Sannier, Vice President and University Technology Officer, Arizona State University, on leave from Iowa State University; Mr. Vance Ikezoye, President and CEO of Audible Magic Corporation; Ms. Cheryl Asper Elzy, Dean of University Libraries, Illinois State University; Management Team, ISU’s Digital Citizen Project; Dr. Greg Jackson, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, University of Chicago.

**UPDATE: Congress threatens to enact new laws, withhold funds if colleges don’t stop P2P