ISPs testing technology to intercept illegal music downloads

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It wasn't long ago that Kevin Bermeister was in trouble with the law, coming out of pocket with $150 million for his involvement with the infamous peer-to-peer file sharing program, Kazaa. Internet brigands used the software to pirate music and other media before its demise in 2006. Kazaa has since risen from its grave with a paid structure and Bermeister too has turned over a new leaf, recently introducing a technology to prevent the theft of music online.

Dubbed Copyrouter, the technology can detect when a user is trying to download a copyright-infringing version of a song, and replace it with a legitimate paid version. When Copyrouter detects that a user has prompted an illegal download, it jumps in and requests that they instead download a copyright-protected version. Fees associated with the legal downloads are tacked on to the user's next monthly ISP bill.

Copyrouter works at the local ISP level by distinguishing a file's unique bit sequence. The identifying features of illegal songs are stored in a database owned by Bermeister's company, named Global File Registry. As many as 300 illegal versions of copyrighted songs may be mapped to the one legal copy. When a user initiates an illegal download, they are automatically steered to the legitimate version.

Bermeister, ISPs, and the music industry are all enthused about the potential widespread implementation of Copyrouter. The technology was introduced to a trial market of 8,000 Australian customers about three months ago, and is expected to make its way to the US later this year.

The full-blown effectiveness of Copyrouter remains to be seen, but in the trial, around 30% of the diverted transactions resulted in users agreeing to pay. Bermeister believes the convenience factor will sell it on a broader scale. The technology's backers hope to take it a step beyond the individual intervention of each song. If all goes well, they hope to roll out a subscription model for music to be bundled with your ISP bill.

Although most only seem concerned with Copyrouter's capacity to prevent music theft, I have to question the project's ethics. Would you be okay with an ISP intervening in your online affairs?

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