September 21, 2007

Hollywood's Anti-Piracy Gift to Hackers

Greetings. The New York Times today notes the continuing progress of media "fingerprinting" systems to identify copyrighted works on file sharing sites, networks, and services such as YouTube. Apparently the quality of these detection systems is getting better with far fewer missed or false hits than earlier technologies.

I for one feel that it's perfectly within the entertainment industry's rights to use such systems in conjunction with Web sites who wish to protect themselves from copyright-related litigation.

However, if attempts are made to extend this technology to ISPs generally -- perhaps via deep packet inspection of subscribers' Internet traffic, Hollywood is likely to trigger an enormous backlash. Similarly, any effort to mandate such systems for inclusion in common operating systems, media playback software, or consumer hardware, could set off an awe inspiring backlash.

Outside of the obvious efforts that will be made to bypass the fingerprinting system itself, this technology push is also likely to accelerate the trend to encrypt and move underground those sites that trade in copyrighted materials, making them even more difficult to track. The push will probably also inspire hacking just on a revenge basis, even by persons who actually have no real interest in the copyrighted materials themselves.

To the extent that the entertainment industry is seen to be treading farther into restricting what have been traditionally considered to be fair use applications, the risk of significant shadowy (but intelligent and powerful in their own right) forces dedicated to disrupting their anti-piracy systems rises greatly.

If the entertainment industry isn't careful, if they attempt to extend controls too far, they may find themselves winning a short-term battle but triggering a technology war the likes of which we haven't seen before, and that they might very well lose.

Perhaps this is something well worth considering, before too much mutual back-patting fogs their long-term perspective.


Posted by Lauren at September 21, 2007 05:20 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein