Cybernaut 

P2P party over?

Government to table new law targeting file swappers

After losing court case after court case to judges that don’t seem to grasp the nature or scope of peer-to-peer file swapping, the music industry changed tactics recently by lobbying the federal government to change laws to make file swapping illegal.

It was the slow way around, and it won’t help the music industry to recoup losses, but last Thursday the government announced several changes to the Canadian Copyright Act that could stop some file swappers in their tracks.

It’s not law yet, but if the changes pass muster in the House of Commons, Internet service providers (ISPs) would be forced to make records of customers who make significant downloads of music, video and other media.

The changes would also recognize that "the unauthorized posting or the peer-to-peer file sharing of material on the Internet will constitute an infringement of copyright."

Together, these changes will open file swappers and ISPs that don’t tattle on their clients to music industry lawsuits.

In the past, courts have ruled that it’s not illegal to download or upload material to the Web in separate cases, and that Internet Service Providers were protected from revealing the identities of their customers.

The way it currently stands, swapping music and other copyrighted files is not exactly illegal, although it’s not exactly legal either. Thanks to past judgements the legal status is in a kind of grey area that the federal government hopes to make black and white.

Only individuals that share or download large quantities of music and other media files will likely be targeted under the new law, as a court order would need to be executed in each and every case.

In addition, ISPs will be forced to inform their customers that swapping is illegal, which suggests that the changes to the Canadian Copyright Act won’t be applied retroactively to people who have shared and downloaded in the past.

In an ironic twist the announcement comes just as a new report was released that discovered that about 20 per cent of people are regularly using portable music players like iPods to exchange music, something which could be almost impossible to regulate.

Not so Fox-y after all

The Mozilla Foundation ate humble pie last week with the release of yet another security patch for their Firefox web browser.

Firefox made a splash this winter, capturing almost 10 per cent of the browser market from Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari, and other browsers. It was originally billed as a safe alternative to Internet Explorer, which was riddled with security holes, and open to spyware programs and pop-up ads, but it appears that Firefox is not all it’s cracked up to be either.

Just days ago the Mozilla Foundation released a new version of Firefox to plug three major vulnerabilities. The new release came just days after Internet Security Systems published a report that said Firefox had 60 per cent more reported vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer in the second half of 2004 – 21 discovered vulnerabilities compared to 13.

It’s early days yet, and Firefox has a long way to fall before it can match IE’s record for security flaws, but it’s definitely off to a bad start.

Yahoo quadruples accounts

Yahoo’s online e-mail service got a boost this week with the announcement that Yahoo would expand free e-mail storage from 250MB to one gigabyte in mid-April, while allowing users to send and receive larger files.

Google set off the chain reaction when they boosted their Gmail services to a gigabyte last fall. Microsoft and Yahoo followed suit, bumping Hotmail and Yahoo.com accounts up to 250MB.

Nobody has responded to Yahoo’s bold move just yet, but it could vastly change the status quo by putting Hotmail – the original online mail service with a huge but shrinking market share – in third place when it comes to storage.

Zeroing in on hackers

The truly gifted hackers of the world have always been one step ahead of the authorities, aggressively protecting their own identities while breaking into various databases or unleashing a wide array of viruses, worms and other kinds of online attacks onto the Web.

Last week the biggest names in the telecommunications industry agreed to form the new Fingerprint Sharing Alliance, a group dedicated to tracking down hackers. Companies like British Telecommunications, Cisco Systems, EarthLink, MCI, NTT Communications, Asia Netcom, Broadwing Communications and others have pledged to work together, sharing information to better trace the origin of hackers.

In rare cases they will be able to find the exact computer where a hack or virus originated, but more often they’ll be able to determine the general area where an attack originated and quarantine that section of the communication network until a security patch can be released.

Denial of Service attacks, wherein viruses use infected computers to repeatedly send messages and requests to a target server until it crashes, can be localized and minimized, reducing their impact.

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