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Slyck Interview With ITIC
June 11, 2004
Thomas Mennecke
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ITIC is a digital distribution tracking firm located in Montreal, Cananda. Among many other features, ITIC focuses on monitoring the population of various P2P networks and business loss due to piracy. ITIC has recently made headlines for rebuffing the IFPI's (International Federation for the Phonographic Industry) claim that music piracy is down 27%. We would like to thank the various ITIC staff for participating in this interview. ITIC is relatively new to the digital distribution scene. Tell us a bit more about your company (motivation, number of employees, type of equipment, etc.)

ITIC: We focus on distributed digital piracy. We are no pirates hunters and describe ourselves as a 4 years old R&D company providing intelligence and solutions. Most of us have an IT background. Information regarding staff are undisclosed. The equipments we use are all you could imagine but big machine rooms. The onsite platform is powered by Plan 9 servers while the probes are powered by the Inferno operating system with special software of our own. Explain the techniques used to gather your statistics, including P2P population and business leakage. Which networks do you concentrate on?

ITIC: Each probe has the software connectors to attach to P2P networks and initiate normal dialog including queries, downloads. Those probes send resulting data to a central node that stores them in a regular DB. At this point it becomes a matter of queries, depending on which data were gathered and which results we are looking for.

The P2P population is estimated by correlating server's official stats and local time trends. We also use some repetitive file queries to evaluate the reliability of the numbers previously computed. Error rate might not exceed 3% in normal operations while trends are always 99.99% reliable. Business leakage is estimated by counting the dissemination of recently released songs across the P2P networks. Repeated queries at specific intervals allow us to gather most of the copies holders while collected details are used to discriminate redundant hits. The AVG price we use is USD 9 each CD.

The networks we concentrate on are those representing at least 80% of the worldwide P2P population. Our concern is much more the local specificities of each country than the virtual community. In your latest press release, you state the IFPI is playing [dangerously] with P2P figures. Some press sources are crediting IFPI with an impressive victory. What would you credit the IFPI with?

ITIC: Well, we should credit them with the choice of a good PR agency. When music industry killed Napster, users moved to Kazaa. Now they want to eradicate Kazaa, users will move once again to something more `secure'. Finally, IM functionalities disappear, shared folders are hiding, and blocking lists become popular... That may become the end of the "hand monitored P2P" era for IFPI and its affiliates. The pressure they maintain on P2P makes it just more reactive and safer. P2P reorganizes itself in weeks while IFPI need years to target its next action. As we come up on the first year anniversary of the RIAA's lawsuit campaign against file-sharing, how would you classify their success (or lack there of)?

ITIC: We think nothing good of this sad anniversary. Remember the terror that installed around `rampant software piracy' in the late 80s. "Copy this software and you'll get this hardware" [handcuffs]. So what? Is software piracy now much less than what it used to be at the age of personal computing? No, it's probably 10K times [worse]...

Lawsuits was Hillary Rosen idea. She left but the concept remains fairly persistent. The most impressive untold story about all this is probably the amount of money music and movie industries spent in their so called fight [$0]. In 4 years, no verifiable statistics were released, no monitoring software was said to be running somewhere. The only IT related technology you could find are `under test' while their developers expect money if any success. Music and movie industries do not invest in R&D, they just believe in lobbying and PR. What lessons can other copyright holders learn from the RIAA's lawsuit campaign?

ITIC: The biggest lesson is that no government will invest in anti-piracy staff / techniques to protect copyright holders profits. Addressing concerns by laws does not stand for having technological solutions to technological issues. As we move into the future, what trends can we anticipate? Do you believe file-sharing will thrive or will the copyright industry finally reduce P2P to nothing more than a minor nuisance?

ITIC: Lawsuits and lobbying are useless against networked, distributed, impersonal and decentralized file swaps whose P2P is just an implementation. If you want to fight misused technology, use the technology itself firstÂ. If you reject the technology, technology will relegate you to the past.

Hence, some non teky users will be fined while some other might be sentenced to jail, but P2P definitely belongs to the future. Legal downloads? For technical and human reasons, we do not believe entertainment industries could secure their products until public release. Most of the 1st copy guys are insiders and you will always find some `customers' for free and unreleased products. That would have been interesting if some music company released the figures for a typical CD sales and how they market their products. Quickly, if the product evades before public release, then investments are wasted so that the second life cycle has no cash to take off.

Conclusion? As long as no technology prevents illegal downloads to plumb those industries [at least in terms of investment], legal offers will remain seamless; music companies would just be `digitally stupid.' What file-sharing networks do you feel will be the next major players in the months to come?

ITIC: The current trend is pointing to eDonkey/Overnet. This is probably much more an emergency move than a technological choice. Users follow the content. Months ago, content used to be localized `in space', I mean geographically and with a strong relationship to its language. Since a few weeks, users are focusing on movies, hereby touching content appearing in both space and time. As a consequence of video files being longer to download than a simple MP3, time means from PST to JST. By taking so long time before releasing internationalized version of its Kazaa software, Sharman Networks let solid competitors deploy their interfaces.

In a near future, more and more users will try to cloak their identity [IP] which current big networks do not support as well unless if you tolerate unacceptable download speeds. We may then observe new trends. We have an idea but...! It appears that FastTrack is rapidly losing steam. If you were to etimate, how much time left does it have as the top P2P network before eDonkey2000 and/or Overnet takes over?

ITIC: 60 days would be a true false answer. Last year, eDonkey had a regular activity during summertime which KaZaA did not have. More than ever, variations of the KaZaA population are tightly bound to lawsuits and anti-P2P campaigns. Summer should be VERY quiet and then Kazaa population could revive on Sept. If Sharman Networks is still alive at this time, they may also deploy a more attractive platform; don't forget they have an invaluable experience in redeployment and robust P2P. Have you examined the Arez/Warez P2P networks? Their current population is hovering around 500,000 plus users and seems poised to make a run for million plus users. What trends do you anticipate for this network? (ref: - )

ITIC: No comment. As more people learn to hide their shared directory and migrate to more secure networks, what effect, if any, will this have on the RIAA's lawsuit campaign (change in strategy, etc)?

ITIC: Glad you ask this question! [Putting both RIAA and Strategy in the same sentence is so weird.] RIAA et al are lobbying businesses that earn money from music companies. The day piracy will be cloaked, majors could starve and then refuse to pay RIAA the service that killed them.

[Un?]Fortunately, people in Europe still consider IFPI and RIAA as anti-piracy leaders. The ideas they push may send them straight forward to the same failures.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Interviews

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