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Five DirectConnect Hubs Targeted
August 26, 2004
Thomas Mennecke
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Perusing the latest in Google news, headlines such as "Feds, RIAA hammer P2P users", "FBI launches raids on P2P users" and "US government cracks down on P2P piracy" dominate. From a casual user’s point of view, one would think a major file-sharing offensive is underway. Truth is however, that much of this is hype, and the actions by the Department of Justice are not indicative of a massive P2P enforcement action.

Let us look at what really happened. As the Department of Justice (DoJ) press release states, "...federal agents executed six search warrants at five residences and one Internet service provider in Texas, New York, and Wisconsin, as part of an investigation into the illegal distribution of copyrighted movies, software, games, and music over peer-to-peer networks. Agents seized computers, software, and computer-related equipment in the searches." That is it. No one was arrested and no other P2P networks were targeted.

The investigation is a joint effort by the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The hub operators were operating DirectConnect subnetworks. Unlike many other P2P networks, DirectConnect relies on its users to establish the network. Individuals establish central servers, or hubs, where dozens, or even hundreds of users can share files. Many subnetworks on DirectConnect are private, and only accessible once a mutual trust is established. Furthermore, most hubs require an individual to share a large amount of files. The better hubs usually require many gigabytes of shared information.

The DoJ specifically targeted "The Underground Network", which was divided into 5 subnetworks: Movieroom, Project X/The Asylum, Achenon's Alley, Digital Underground, and Silent Echoes. Unlike the safer, private hubs, these networks are public and easily accessible by anyone. Agents for the FBI simply loaded their hard drives with enough material to gain access, and from there started collecting evidence.

Typical of any DirectConnect hub, the FBI was able to collect theatrical movies, top 40 “music” and application software. While the DoJ press release makes this out to be a groundbreaking event, it is not the first time authorities have cracked down on DirectConnect hubs. Last November, New Zealand authorities shut down a significant DirectConnect hub.

The only difference between this action and the actions of the RIAA is criminal vs. civil. The similarities however, are more prevelent. Much like the RIAA’s pursuit of file-traders, the DoJ/FBI only targeted the most obvious and blatant infringers.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
P2P Clients :: DC++
Legal/Courtroom :: Individual Lawsuits

Department of Justice press release.

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