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Damning Kazaa Evidence Released
February 7, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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The question whether the administrators of the FastTrack network can truly control the operation of this community dates back to the origins of decentralized P2P networking. Most P2P network administrators adamantly deny they can control the flow of files - especially the ones the RIAA and the MPAA care about.

For the most part, this appears to be true. Gnutella developers are a mix of open source and closed source clients on an open network. The logistical means to organize any closure of copyrighted material is nearly impossible in and of itself. Similarly, the eDonkey2000 network is a mix of clients from MetaMachine and eMule (and its variants), while both MetaMachine and Lugdunum provide the servers. The less a centralized authority has control over a particular network, the less control it is able to exert.

However, this is not the case when it comes to the FastTrack network.

Unlike most other P2P networks, or P2P networks with any significance, FastTrack is dominated by one centralized consortium - Sharman and Altnet. Altnet provides "legitimate" alternative files that users of Kazaa can purchase rather than downloading them from the FastTrack network. In essence, it is a "behind the scenes" network piggy-backing on FastTrack.

Yet the question of this consortium's control over FastTrack has always been that of speculation. The RIAA has stated time and time again that Sharman and AltNet clan can exert control over the FastTrack network, and it appears this assertion is accurate.

Once confidential Sharman Networks and AltNet documents released by Judge Wilcox in Australian Federal Court have exposed very revealing evidence against FastTrack. Earlier this month, discussed Phil Morle's (Sharman's CTO) rant regarding the state of Kazaa. Now, new documents released by Judge Wilcox potentially reveal the level of control network administrators possess.

The new document released is titled "Proposal & Specifications for TOPSEARCH P2P Search Result Highlight System" written by Altnet CTO Anthony Rose (TopSearch is a project developed by AltNet.) When an individual conducts a search for artist "B" and the recording industry wants to promote this artist, TopSearch makes sure artist "B" is highlighted and appears at the top of the search results.

The document, obtained by contains a dialog between Anthony Rose and Kazaa Media Desktop interface programmer Priit Kasesalu. In the document, both individuals clearly show that control over the network is not only possible, but also part of their business solution.

Just like any business, one will need to keep track of AltNet sales, the supposedly uncontrollable FastTrack client will have to send back stats when a sale is made. From the proposal:

A stats reporting module will need to be developed for the KMD player, with the following functionality:

1) When a sponsored file is displayed in the search panel, KMD will post a Sponsored Impression stat.
2) When the user clicks on a sponsored file to download it, KMD will post a Sponsored Click stat.
3) When the file has successfully downloaded and beings playing we may want to post and additional stat - this can be done using the License Key system built into Windows Media files.

These Stats will be sent back to AltNet's ad server is a way that a banner ad stats are posted. IN addition, for maximum flexibility and to allow client auditing, a 2nd set of stats can optionally be posted to the Stats URL optionally contained in the metadata field of Windows Media Files.

Pritt has his quasi-objections to this recommendation, and stats that security issues like "...collecting IP addresses..." and "One can argue that we have knowledge of copyrighted material...and have to install filters."

Collecting this information will only exist for AltNet files, however Pritt makes a fairly serious admission in regards to the FastTrack network.

"Of course we won't know about downloads and playbacks on non signed content but it doesn't make difference because...if we are reporting signed files, then technically we could do same for any file." Ouch.

The level of control network administrators have on FastTrack does not stop at the user level. In fact, Anthony Rose speaks quite clearly about controlling the SuperNodes - the temporary indexing servers that make FastTrack work.

In order to get individuals to actually discover the song, they need to be "pushed" onto the network. Anthony describes how this could happen.

In order for the sponsored files to be rapidly found on P2P searches they'll need to be pushed out onto supernodes - we'll need to set up a mechanism for doing this. Double ouch.

Priit, objected to this proposal, citing bandwidth concerns with SuperNodes, and instead stated that "If we are going to push, then [push] to regular nodes."

In addition, Priit expressed concerns regarding Kazaa's reputation. If news of this type of operation became public, there may be a serious backlash against Kazaa - not to mention the RIAA and MPAA taking advantage of the situation.

While Sharman and FastTrack have not implemented this program, the evidence is already exposed. Whether they have implemented this control or not, they have clearly demonstrated they are able to control the SuperNodes and clients. Rest assured the RIAA and MPAA will take full advantage of this situation.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
FastTrack :: Kazaa
Legal/Courtroom :: Developer Lawsuits

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