Thursday, May 15, 2008

RIAA explain to the Chronicle how to track file sharers

The RIAA has outlined to the Chronicle of Higher Education how it tracks files sharers.
"To catch college students trading copyrighted songs online, the Recording Industry Association of America uses the same file-sharing software that online pirates love, an RIAA representative told The Chronicle at the organization's offices during a private demonstration of how it catches alleged music pirates. He also said the group does not single out specific colleges in its investigations.

The demonstration was given by an RIAA employee who would speak only on condition of anonymity because of concern that he would receive hate e-mail.

The official explained that one way the RIAA identifies pirates is by using LimeWire, a popular peer-to-peer file-sharing program that is free online and used by many college students (there is also a more-robust version of the program sold for a small fee).

Here's how the process works: The RIAA maintains a list of songs whose distribution rights are owned by the RIAA's member organizations. It has given that list to Media Sentry, a company it hired to search for online pirates. That company runs copies of the LimeWire program and performs searches for those copyrighted song titles, one by one, to see if any are being offered by people whose computers are connected to the LimeWire network. For popular songs, the search can turn up dozens, if not hundreds, of hits. A search on Madonna's latest release, "4 Minutes," turned up more than a hundred users trading various copies of the song.

The LimeWire software allows users who right-click on any song entry and choose "browse host" to see all of the songs that a given file sharer is offering to others for download. The software also lists the IP address of active file sharers. (An IP address is a unique number, assigned by Internet-service providers, that identifies every connection to the Internet.) While the names of the people associated with particular IP addresses are not public, it is easy to find out which IP addresses are registered to each Internet-service provider. Using public, online databases (such as those at or, Media Sentry locates the name of the Internet-service provider and determines which traders are located at colleges or universities."

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