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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Piracy fight gets serious
Eminem, PA
Eminem's latest album was widely pirated online
Record makers could win the right to carry out hack attacks on music sharing services if a US proposal becomes law.

Californian congressman Howard Berman has drawn up a bill that would legalise the disruption of peer-to-peer networks by companies who are trying to stop people pirating copyrighted materials.

If his idea becomes law, record companies will be able to carry out a variety of attacks on the sharing services to make them unusable or so irritating to use that people abandon them.

Existing legislation makes it an offence for anyone to carry out many of the attacks mooted in the proposal.

Better blockers

So far, music companies have used legal action to stop people spreading pirated pop through net-based peer-to-peer networks, such as Napster, Kazaa and Audiogalaxy.

Their attempts have largely been successful.

Napster has declared itself bankrupt and is trying to relaunch itself as a subscription service; Kazaa has run out of money to pay its mounting legal bills; and Audiogalaxy has agreed to remove copyrighted material from its network that it does not have permission to share.

However, legal action can take a long time to work and now Howard Berman, a democrat congressman for California, has proposed legislation that will let music makers act much more quickly.

Spoof tracks

His proposal would let the record makers carry out hacking-type attacks on sharing networks to protect copyrighted works.

If it became law, record companies would win the right to place spoof tracks on sharing services, block downloads, redirect people to non-existent files and launch attacks that disrupt the smooth running of the networks.

Some record labels have already been known to seed some networks with spoof tracks or adverts to try to stop people getting hold of music they have not paid for.

The law would also allow the record companies to place programs on the machines of peer-to-peer networks to let them trace who is pirating pop.

See also:

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12 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
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26 Jan 01 | Science/Nature
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