Law enforcement officials in Belgium and Switzerland raided the headquarters of a key portion of what has been described as “the world’s largest peer-to-peer facilitator” this week, shutting down eDonkey’s Razorback2 file-sharing server on the grounds that it allowed more than a million users to illegally access copyrighted music, movies, games and other digital content.
This week’s action included the arrest of Razorback2’s operator at his Swiss residence, as well as a search of his home. Belgian police, meanwhile, seized the site’s servers at a hosting center near Brussels.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) called the crackdown a major victory in cutting off the supply of illegal materials available via P2P networks.
“By shaving the illegal traffic of copyrighted works facilitated by Razorback2, we are depleting other illegal networks of their ability to supply Internet pirates with copyrighted works which is a positive step in our international effort to fight piracy,” said MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman.
Intrigued by Models
Some industry watchers maintain that the move may only serve to push illegal P2P file trading to other networks and other platforms, such as e-mail. Meanwhile, as copyright holders such as the MPAA continue to crackdown on the most egregious offenders, these same players are also looking carefully at the P2P networks to get ideas for their own legitimate use of similar file-sharing models.
“We’re not going to see the labels and movie studios back down,” Gartner Research Director Mike McGuire told TechNewsWorld. “But increasingly, we’re seeing behind-the-scenes discussions, and, while they’re looking at ways to deal with unlicensed sites, at the same time they are investigating as to whether they can take advantage of the distribution models that these [networks] offer.”
In response to charges that Razorback2 operators profited through donations and advertising revenue while facilitating the trading of files that included child pornography, bomb-making instructions, and terrorist training videos, P2P defenders argued that Razorback2 was also facilitating legitimate file sharing via Ratiatum downloads and Jamendo music.
McGuire said as long as free copies of files that would otherwise cost users are available, P2P services will be targeted.
“I don’t see how [content providers] could buy into that,” he said. “They don’t want to see stuff that is licensed with a free version as well. That’s the one thing they’re always going to come down on.”
The challenge for content holders such as the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America, McGuire said, is to use the successful P2P technology architecture as a distribution method that is an attractive alternative to free availability.
P2P operators will continue to face heavy skepticism and persecution from content holders as they make their own moves toward legitimate, licensed distribution networks, he said.