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Altnet Sues Morpheus
August 15, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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A few years back, there were a number of articles floating around regarding Altnet’s strong words on hash code patents. Altnet’s CEO Kevin Bremeister in June of 2003 articulated that several P2P developers were in potential violation of the patents that governed “hash” technology. In a press release issued today, Altnet has made good on its promise.

"Altnet is very focused on the infringement of the TrueNames patent and we believe that many of today's active peer-to-peer applications may be in direct violation," Altnet CEO Kevin Bermeister said in a statement in 2003.

But that was back in 2003, when the P2P world was filled with commercial developers such as BearShare. Three years later, the file-sharing world has changed dramatically. As open source becomes the file-sharing standard, commercial developers are no longer as prevalent as they once were. This leaves a few strongholds such as BitTorrent, Inc., Sharman Networks and StreamCast Networks to hold the line. So who does Kevin’s 2003 statement’s apply to?

Certainly not Sharman Networks. Altnet, when it was first released, was referred to as a “stealth” P2P network because of its clandestine approach to file-sharing. Instead of developing an independent network outright, Altnet instead piggybacks on the FastTrack network (Kazaa, Kazaa Lite, Grokster, etc.) Accessible via Kazaa, Altnet provides authorized content, typically prioritized ahead of unauthorized material. So it’s quite apparent that Altnet enjoys Sharman’s company.

What about BitTorrent, Inc.? Well, BitTorrent really doesn’t utilize hash technology in the traditional sense. Hash technology is truly a unique facet of file-sharing. It utilizes a file’s unique signature to verify its authenticity against sought after material existing in the wild. If a P2P client cannot verify the hash code (signature) of a sought after file, it spares the end user the torment of downloading a bogus or false file. BitTorrent does utilize hash technology; however the implementation of this technology falls on the tracker/indexing administration rather than the developers.

That leaves few other commercial developers of consequence. But wait, there’s always StreamCast Networks.

The feud between StreamCast Networks and SharmanNetworks runs almost as deep as the Litani River. As many recall, StreamCast’s Morpheus P2P client once connected to the FastTrack network (a place Kazaa calls home.) However in February of 2002, Morpheus found itself mysteriously kicked off the FastTrack network. It is widely speculated the reason for this banishment stemmed from StreamCast’s negligence in paying Sharman the necessary licensing fees.

"MusicCity (also known as StreamCast Networks) has failed to pay any amounts due to Kazaa BV under the parties' license agreement," Kazaa BV founder Niklas Zennstrom wrote in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "As a result of MusicCity's breach, Kazaa BV did not provide version 1.5 to MusicCity. Kazaa has also terminated MusicCity's license."

The situation would remain tense between both sides, until StreamCast networks opened a new offensive in the ongoing Sharman Networks/StreamCast Networks conflict. In January of this year, StreamCast filed a lawsuit against Skype, Sharman, and several other StreamCast affiliates under the civil portion of the RICO Act. Included in this lawsuit is Kevin Bermeister, CEO of Altnet. It is believed that StreamCast’s motivation for this lawsuit stems from Morpheu’s 2002 removal from the FastTrack network.

In this ongoing war of attrition between file-sharing developers, Altnet has decided to strike back. Showing that its 2003 words are more than a paper tiger, Altnet has sued StreamCast networks for violations of its “True Names” patents. In a press release issued today, Altnet’s Michael Speck, the enforcer of Altnet’s copyright issues, announced a new theater of operation. Specifically, Altnet filed a lawsuit in Central California District Court against StreamCast Networks, Inc., and its chief executive, Michael Weiss for apparent violations of Altnet’s “True Names” patent (numbers 5,978791 – 6,415,280 – 6,928,442.)

Michael Speck, manager of enforcement programs said, “StreamCast have been given ample opportunity by all to mend their ways. Their determination to continue distributing infringing material has left us with no choice but to prosecute them.”

Because of its perceived defiance, Morpheus has become one of the lone wolfs in the file-sharing world (Ares, eMule fall into this category as well.) Although criticized by some in the P2P community, it has been one of few commercial developers to resist the pressure to capitulate to the entertainment industry (LimeWire also potentially falls into this category.) Does this mean StreamCast’s position is that of absolute pro-piracy, or just represents the will to see things beyond the view of the entertainment industry? Altnet, in its enhanced stature following June’s settlement, feels the former applies.

“StreamCast’s brazen patent piracy underpins its massive copyright infringement business. They are simply running out of opportunities to go legal.” said Michael Speck.

StreamCast Networks was unavailable for comment during publication.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
P2P Clients :: Morpheus
Legal/Courtroom :: Developer Lawsuits
FastTrack :: Other

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