March 3, 2001
8:18 AM   Subscribe

Ok... let me get this straight. has turned loose a tapeworm, called CopyrightAgent, that crawls around on your computer without your permission, looking for copyrighted MP3 files. If it find them, it reports back your IP address, and they have Napster block you, if you're a Napster user. Otherwise, they contact your ISP, and have *them* block you under the DMCA.

And the first I heard about this was a Knight-Ridder wire story in my local paper?? Why the hell hasn't the Internet reacted by burning these people's offices (or uplink :-) to the ground?
posted by baylink (20 comments total)
I seemed to have missed something here. How is this software installed on the user's computer? Is it done unknowingly? That would put them in the league of virus and trojan creators...nice company to be in...
posted by slackbash at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2001

That's more than a little ridiculous. How could it know whether or not I owned the material on CD, and was just keeping a legal copy on my computer. They'd better start sending out agents to my house to search through my CD collection without my permission.
posted by shinji_ikari at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2001

Baylink, according to the article you linked to in Business 2.0, the agent looks at the songs that you are allowing other Napster users to see and download; I can't think why their agent can't do this. Are you giving explicit permission to each and every 57 million members of Napster to "crawl around your computer"? I would imagine that this agent just acts as another Napster user, and does its thing exactly as Napster does.

And, it can't go unsaid: you're complaining that's agent is searching your files without permission, but did you ask the artists whose music you're sharing their permission to give their music away to other people, in a way in which they get not a cent for their hard work and products of their imagination and inspiration?
posted by delfuego at 8:40 AM on March 3, 2001

Yeah... I'm assuming the legal implications of this are avoided because of the fact the user makes a portion of his hard drive available to the public.

The potential of this is a bummer.
posted by Hankins at 8:45 AM on March 3, 2001

I know this sounds a little silly, but isn't that what every other napster user does on your computer? Crawls around on your drive (in the area you shared out) looking for files. The only difference is rather than reporting you to the 'authorities', your friendly napster user says 'Thx, dude!'.

It's more like a spider than a tapeworm -- scooping up addresses provided via napster, scanning the publicly available directories there and cataloging the contents.

The real question here as far as I'm concerned are:
a) who's got a blocker for this thing (and for sharesniffer) -- chance are good your crappy home firewall won't be able to block this thing

b) when are peer file sharing networks going to become secure?

Is it really true that Napster creates a public share on my machine that's not mediated by the napster agent itself? Does it just create a shared directory directly on to the internet? Or does it actually validate Napster only requests somehow?

I think I know the answer to this one...
posted by evad at 9:01 AM on March 3, 2001

The free firewall Zonealarm blocks NETBEUI connections, even if you've accidentally left them shared.

No firewall, however, is useful when you deliberately run a client on your system that reports to a central server. Since you've allowed Napster through your firewall, any Napster client can connect and download. Presumably there really isn't a way to tell what kind of client that is (and there are dozens of them, from Linux or Mac clones to web-based).

Evad, Napster's sharing is handled entirely within its own protocol. External peers can only see that you have a list of files made available -- they can't navigate your drive. Napster says "I have Oops I Did It Again", the server stores that info while you're logged on, and other Napster peers see it, and come to your peer and say "You said you have Oops ... send it to me." You're not using any network protocol other than TCP/IP, and if you shut down Napster (with File Exit, of course, because Alt-F4 only minimizes it to the taskbar), nobody can get those files.
posted by dhartung at 9:41 AM on March 3, 2001

Ok, unless I misread the story...

Damnit. I *did* misread it, because the Knight-Ridder piece wildly mischaracterized what they were doing. Apologies to all; Matt, you can nuke this thread if you want.

I'm embarassed.
posted by baylink at 9:59 AM on March 3, 2001

Baylink, you're acting surprised that the popular press mischaracterized something net-related as scary and apt to take away all of your privacy. I wonder why they did that...
posted by delfuego at 10:32 AM on March 3, 2001

I'm not a defender of Napster, but isn't's worm trespassing on the domain of someone's computer. If it's pretending to be a Napster user, isn't that fraud as well?
posted by shackbar at 12:51 PM on March 3, 2001

It's not fraud, but it might be against Napster's TOS. Not that they'd care.
Oh, and this isn't a worm. A worm is self-replicating. This is a spider.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:54 PM on March 3, 2001

The way the K-R piece characterized it was fairly un-ambiguous, albeit wrong. If I could find the piece, I'd link it, but doesn't post wire service stuff.
posted by baylink at 3:48 PM on March 3, 2001

Regardless of the specific technical nature of the indexing, it seems to me that Napster users ought to have the same rights eBay does.
posted by jjg at 5:19 PM on March 3, 2001

This sounds like a bot that interfaces with Napster, Gnutella, et. al. Doesn't the home page of the Napster client say, 'no bots allowed'? Hmm lemme check, here's what is says:


I wonder if Napster has any ground to counter the actions of the companies that Metallica, Dre, Orbison etc use to 'search users shared music' for copyright infringement?

Just a thought

posted by leaveok at 6:25 PM on March 3, 2001

So you can either stop sharing songs (but still download from other people ;) or face the risk of being blocked.

Wow, that sucks. What if you rename the files using a code? Then the spider wouldn’t see your naughty Britney Spears, but only Xkle8372 329408dfjdio or something.

Just a thought. Disclaimer: I was too lazy to read the article, and I don’t use Napster anymore.
posted by gleemax at 6:26 PM on March 3, 2001

so all i did to get around this was move all my mp3s from a folder on my c drive to a nonshared folder on my d drive.

and yes, i'm leeching. it's because i use a 33.6 dialup and no one ever, ever downloads from me anyway.
posted by sugarfish at 6:30 PM on March 3, 2001

Um, couldn't this be easily circumvented if one were using a dynamic IP address? If the 'spider' reports one IP, and you log on again with a differen't IP, wouldn't you still be able to download and share files?

You know, sorta like changing phaser frequencies when fighting the Borg.

Sigh . . . I am such a geek.
posted by aladfar at 9:15 PM on March 3, 2001

I love the idea of Napster enforcing some "no bot" rule, but not enforcing the illegality of sharing copyrighted works of art. Only in America.
posted by delfuego at 9:46 PM on March 3, 2001

As I read the story, the scary thing about this business is not that the software looks at your harddrive in the same way any other machine connected to Napster or Gnutella does, but that and the RIAA are (will be) using the information to subpoena ISPs to get the names of their customers, and then (presumably) forcing the ISPs to close the accounts of such customers, and/or going after the customers themselves. Either way, this means going after individual endusers who have copies of non-licensed material for personal use.
posted by Rebis at 10:53 PM on March 3, 2001

Checkout LimeWire. Once Napster dies, and it will, there will be much more music accessible from point-to-point file sharing software.
posted by internook at 4:17 AM on March 4, 2001

Even if your IP is dynamically assigned, it asigned by someone who owns that IP space, so they can track you down that way.

One one hand, it is fully within their rights to explore the public arena of copyright infringement. It is much like an agent going into a bodega in SoHo and finding a bunch of unauthorized concert recordings.

On the other hand, the fact that it is some kind of bot spider is troubling, since you can make software do anything you want once you allow it access. And even sometimes when you don't allow it access.

There is potential for abuse, although it hasn't been spotted yet.
posted by rich at 12:33 PM on March 5, 2001

« Older New Jersey teen is halfway through his pledge not...   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments