Just getting back from our tech talk seminar today at Western Michigan University. The topic of DMCA requests came up in our discussions, and here are some of my notes on the subject.
Background: The DMCA, which is the enforcement arm of the motion picture copyright conglomerate, tracks down users with illegal content.
They seem to sometimes shoot first and ask questions later when sending out their notices more specific detail to follow.
Unconfirmed Rumor has it, that one very large University in the State of Michigan just tosses the requests in the garbage and does nothing with them, I have heard of other organizations taking this tact. They basically claim this problem for the DMCA is not the responsibility of the ISP.
I also am aware of a sovereign Caribbean country that also ignores them. I am not advocating this as a solution just an observation.
There was also a discussion on how the DMCA discovers copyright violators from the outside.
As standard practice, most network administrators use their firewall to block UN-initiated requests into the network from the outside. With this type of firewall setting, an outsider cannot just randomly probe a network to find out what copyrighted material is being hosted. You must get invited in first by an outgoing request.
An analogy would be that if you show up at my door uninvited, and knock, my doorman is not going to let you in, because there is no reason for you to be at my door. But if I order a pizza and you show up wearing a pizza delivery shirt, my doorman is going to let you in. In the world of p2p, the invite into the network is a bit more subtle, and most users are not aware they have sent out the invite, but it turns out any user with a p2p client is constantly sending out requests to p2p super nodes to attain information on what content is out there. Doing so, opens the door on the firewall to let the P2p super node into the network. The DMCA p2p super nodes just look like another web site to the firewall so it lets it in. Once in the DMCA reads directories of p2p clients.
In one instance, the DMCA is not really inspecting files for copyrighted material, but was only be checking for titles. A music student who recorded their own original music, but named their files after original artists and songs based on the style of the song. Was flagged erroneously with DMCA notifications based on his naming convention The school security examined his computer and determined the content was not copyrighted at all. What we can surmise from this account was that the DMCA was probing the network directories and not actually looking at the content of the files to see if they were truly in violation of copying original works.
Back to the how does the DMCA probe theory ? The consensus was that it is very likely that DMCA is actually running super nodes, so they will get access to client directories. The super node is a server node that p2p clients contact to get advice on where to get music and movie content ( pirated most likely). The speculation among the user group , and these are very experienced front line IT administrators that have seen just about every kind of p2p scheme. They suspect that the since the DMCA super node is contacted by their student network first, it opens the door from the super node to come back and probe for content. In other words the super node looks like the Pizza delivery guy where you place your orders.
It was also further discussed and this theory is still quite open, that sophisticated p2p networks try to cut out the DMCA spy super nodes. This gets more convoluted than peeling off character masks at a mission impossible movie. The p2p network operators need super nodes to distribute content, but these nodes cannot be permanently hosted, they must live in the shadows and are perhaps parasites themselves on client computers.
So questions that remain for future study on this subject are , how do the super nodes get picked , and how does the p2p network disable a spy DMCA super node ?