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File sharing without the threat

With the dubious threat of prosecution by the Recording Industry Association of America becoming a reality, many users are turning to new file-sharing systems that will allow them to keep their identity anonymous.

The new wave of file-sharing programs utilizes technologies that help conceal a trader’s identity from the prying eyes of those who wish to stop their illegal practices.

Some of these programs are deemed a significant threat by the RIAA because they are based in countries where strong intellectual property laws do not exist.

One such program, Earth Station Five (ES5), is based out of a refugee camp in the Palestinian West Bank. ES5 openly defies any copyright issues that have stopped previous programs from continuing to serve the file-sharing public. Programs such as this make it difficult for the RIAA to prosecute responsible parties, because their creators are not breaking copyright laws in their home country.

ES5 has shown a disregard for copyright by storing and streaming the latest theatrical releases and full albums directly from their servers, actions that would have normally triggered multiple lawsuits from the music and movie industries.

Recognizing the fears of traders, the program promises users that their identities will be safe through the use of advanced security features.

One of these methods is through the use of a different Web protocol called User Datagram Protocol (UDP), which offers users a higher degree of security than is offered by traditional file-sharing programs.

An explanation on the company’s Web site claims by using UDP they can prevent the RIAA from examining a user’s computer to determine if ES5 is running, unless they themselves are connecting to the programs network.

However, it’s not possible for another person to scan a group of computers to determine if ES5 is running on a user’s PC.

Borrowing from the world of secure online transactions, the company also utilizes Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to protect against unwanted parties viewing file-transfer activities.

This same technology is utilized to help prevent hackers from seeing password or credit card numbers sent through online transactions.

Also adding to the programs security arsenal is the option that allows users to determine if they want their transfers sent through a proxy server.

By using the proxy servers, the traders would be able to hinder others from locating them directly because users could send connection requests through a proxy server that acts as an intermediary between the server and the download destination.

According to the company, this would make any attempt to identify the source of the transfer refer back to the proxy server as the person responsible for the transaction, thereby rendering the end user impervious to positive identification.

Some users may find this option to be inconvenient, as the process of using proxy servers will slow down their transfer speeds.

Although the company claims that these methods could provide a safe haven for traders that are eager to escape prosecution by the RIAA, others claim that this could provide a false sense of security.

Companies such as Media Defender Inc., who are hired by the RIAA to monitor and disrupt file-sharing networks, warn that proxy servers could act as a sort of digital “spider web” that could be set up by various groups who are trying to prosecute users.

Traders could unsuspectedly trade files, believing they are immune to lawsuits, only to be caught in the wave of litigations sought by the RIAA.

Another problem facing the proxy server system is the large cost that such a project would require.

Currently, the service only maintains a few proxy servers to run all the traffic of those choosing to use this option.

With an increase in users, the cost of maintaining multiple servers to transfer vast amounts of data is likely to become both financially and legally more burdensome.

Still, keeping up with the demand for proxy servers may become a reality, as the there are those in the file-sharing community who already maintain large storage servers that utilize a sizeable amount of bandwidth in an effort to pirate the latest releases.

Speculation aside, the release of ES5 and other programs like it demonstrate the will and determination of the file-trading community. Members of this ever-expanding group will always find some way to circumvent the barriers placed before them.

As the sun begins to set on yet another file-sharing titan, it will only be a matter of time before another program claims its place.

Only time and user experience will be able to determine if this new set of programs that promise to shield the identities of their proprietors will be the next dominant step in the evolution of file-sharing.