Seeking to utterly alienate millions of customers, and enter into a real tech war with enraged geeks, the RIAA is sponsoring research into methods to debilitate file sharer’s computers:
- The record companies are exploring options on new countermeasures, which some experts say have varying degrees of legality, to deter online theft: from attacking personal Internet connections so as to slow or halt downloads of pirated music to overwhelming the distribution networks with potentially malicious programs that masquerade as music files.
The covert campaign, parts of which may never be carried out because they could be illegal under state and federal wiretap laws, is being developed and tested by a cadre of small technology companies, the executives said.
….Among the more benign approaches being developed is one program, considered a Trojan horse rather than a virus, that simply redirects users to Web sites where they can legitimately buy the song they tried to download.
A more malicious program, dubbed “freeze,” locks up a computer system for a certain duration — minutes or possibly even hours — risking the loss of data that was unsaved if the computer is restarted. It also displays a warning about downloading pirated music. Another program under development, called “silence,” scans a computer’s hard drive for pirated music files and attempts to delete them. One of the executives briefed on the silence program said that it did not work properly and was being reworked because it was deleting legitimate music files, too.
Other approaches that are being tested include launching an attack on personal Internet connections, often called “interdiction,” to prevent a person from using a network while attempting to download pirated music or offer it to others.
….Whether the record companies decide to unleash a tougher anti-piracy campaign has created a divide among some music executives concerned about finding a balance between stamping out piracy and infuriating its music-listening customers. There are also questions about whether companies could be held liable by individuals who have had their computers attacked.
…. the more aggressive approach could also generate a backlash against individual artists and the music industry. When Madonna released “spoofed” versions of songs from her new album on music sharing networks to frustrate pirates, her own Web site was hacked into the next day and real copies of her album were made available by hackers on her site. [NY Times]
Consumers are slow to anger, but once roused can shut down an entire industry. The major labels seem intent on testing that premise.