07 February 2004

The most interesting parts of the Washington Post's articles on the Australian raids on KaZaa are, as everyone should have learned to expect by now, buried at the end. That is bad writing, bad journalism, and bad editorial practice. First, we find this:

Speck said the raids are the culmination of a six-month investigation begun when the music industry "identified significant changes in the technical and physical infrastructure" of Kazaa's operations that made it enough of an Australian operation to subject it to that country's law. Kazaa is incorporated in Australia and Vanuatu, a group of South Pacific islands that advertises itself as a tax haven. Kazaa maintains that it is not responsible for the activities of its users and the Netherlands Supreme Court agreed in December. In the United States, the music industry is appealing an April federal court decision saying that the industry could not sue peer-to-peer services for alleged copyright violations. Shortly after, the U.S. music industry began its lawsuit campaign against individual file-swappers, which continues. The number of users of Kazaa has dropped by half since the music industry began its lawsuits.

Frank Ahrens, "Kazaa [sic] Offices Raided in Australia" (07 Feb 04) (emphasis added, fake paragraphing removed for clarity). Considering that where Sharman Networks (KaZaa's putative corporate parent) may be sued is one of the major issues in the entire controversy, one would not ordinarily expect to wade 2/3 of the way into the article to find that assertion. Further, one might ask whether Sharman was offered the opportunity to rebut the theory, or will have an opportunity to rebut the theory.

Next, we have this bit of nonsense:

The raids come during the same week that the Distributed Computing Industry Association — a trade group that includes Kazaa and Altnet — released a business plan it said could make peer-to-peer file sharing legal. The current plan, the third of three released in the past few months, involves copyright protection called "digital watermarking." Previous plans have called for peer-to-peer services to be converted into online music stores, with Internet service providers tracking purchases and billing customers.

Id. (that's lawyerese for "same source as the last one cited"). And the encryption on those watermarks will be broken within three to five weeks after initial use, and somebody will write and distribute the equivalent of DeCSS within a week after that. Then there's the simple work-around of intercepting the outgoing signal when playing the piece and reencoding it—something that one can do with about 40 lines of code (43, actually). This proposal is nothing more than a smokescreen intended to attach some legitimacy to piracy operations.