Earthstation 5: Uncovered
August 25, 2003
EarthStation (ES5) launched onto the P2P scene with huge ambitions in recent months, focusing mainly on user privacy. It has gained much media attention in recent weeks mainly from the fact that it is headquartered in Palestine. However, it has yet to overcome a sceptical community about much of their claims.
Slyck spoke by phone to Ras Kabir in Palestine in an attempt to uncover more about Earthstation 5.
The Huge Statistics
Earthstation 5 has an average of 11,536,240 simultaneous users, it is downloaded 500,000 times a day. The staff levels are going to hit 1,500 and they are based in a refugee camp.
If you believed the last paragraph entirely, then you're taking ES5 press releases
at face value. Slyck asked Ras Kabir to explain how his program could possibly have 3 times the level of usage of FastTrack and be one of the most downloaded software applications in such a short period. This especially seems hard to explain given the fact that it is difficult to find content for some artists. Surely these figures are inflated?
Ras told Slyck that nearly all ES5 users are based in non-English speaking countries, in particular Japan. He admitted that the content level for western artists was poor but that they were working to build up the user base from these countries. When asked to provide further proof of the large user base Ras said he would not be able to provide such proof without compromising user privacy and releasing IP addresses.
He said that the figure of 500,000 downloads of ES5 per day is an average and again mainly originated from other countries. We asked if he would prove his statistics by placing his software on Download.com. In response, he stated that he feared removal by download.com for violation of their sex policies. Slyck found no substantial evidence to support large non-English language following.
Litigation and Funding
ES5 say they have offices in several locations inside Palestine territory. They believe that this location shields them from legal liability.
ES5 services include openly streaming first run movies
from their website. In most countries this would be a clear violation of copyright laws. However, Ras is convinced that their products are legal under Palestine law. This has not stopped the MPAA, who have sent 2 letters to ES5 ordering the service to halt the streaming. The MPAA have also contacted SpeedNet, who are the ISP for ES5, seeking an end to the service. In addition, ES5 have received several calls from the recording industry. Such treats have failed to deter Ras who has invited the RIAA & MPAA to sue ES5 on Palestine court where he is convinced of court victory based on Palestine law.
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ES5 is mainly self-funded at this stage but have ambitious plans to generate revenue in the future. They include selling advertising, operating an online betting service, an online auction service and a VOIP service. Such activities could invite a lawsuit abroad like what has happened to Sharman Networks. Sharman who are incorporated in Vanuatu and based in Australia were still sued by the RIAA on the basis that they had sufficient contracts in the California. ES5 says that their structure will be protected from sufficient contact in the states.
The Earthstation 5 Network
The ES5 network is decentralized from a P2P perspective. While the network is distributed, many other functions including movie streaming are done from centralized servers. Ras told Slyck that the software is undergoing constant development with new versions been issued on a near daily basis.
A key feature they are working on the “green light” file verification feature. Ras argues that hash links can easily be manipulated and a green light will indicate that a file is truly authentic and virus free. Amazingly, Ras claims that much of the file verification will be done by local workers who will check files for authenticity.
The software has certainly improved greatly since the initial testing days by Slyck. Their latest version is considerably less buggy than previous versions and it is now actually possible to get results for some popular western artists. However, some users still experience issues with the software.
Privacy and Proxy usage
ES5 operates several proxy servers, which enable the cloaking of user IP addresses. Earthstation 5 can be used with 3rd party proxies as well. Ras says that once the privacy features are fully utilized by the end-use “then no one in the world can figure out who you are”.
Other privacy protection features include the user of secure sockets and UDP. They also claim that ES5 can work behind most firewalls; something many students will be looking for in upcoming weeks as they return to college.
Ras stated that the recording industry has ordered people to try and circumvent their system but have had no success.
Despite what Ras might say about ES5, there is a large element in the P2P community that question the claims made by Ras. Some even go as far as to suggest conspiracy theories about the reason for ES5's existence. Ras's view is that he understands why people may view a middle eastern company in this light, given the current political climate in that area, but was obviously quick to dismiss any hidden motive.
Certainly a lot of user misgivings about ES5 seem unfounded. The software is constantly improving, they are based far from RIAA waters, they show great promise in p2p privacy standards and their president has some courage in standing up the entertainment industry in this manner. Lets hope that ES5's only serious fault is some inflated PR in the desire to increase usage.