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What They Did for Their $97.8 Billion

Zack Rosen provides an invaluable, brilliant analysis of the file sharing systems developed by the four college students sued by the RIAA for $97.8 billion, which is way more than I made as a radio DJ when I was in college. In fact, slacker that I am, I have yet to make my FIRST billion.

    Daniel Jonathan Peng maintained and developed an application / website called “wake” that allowed users of the website: http://wake.princeton.edu (cached) to search for files shared on Princeton University’s Local Area Network. It appears that Wake was a front end to a SMB file spider that searched and catalogued all “shared” files on computers connected to the Princeton’s LAN. SMB is a file sharing protocol developed originally by IBM and implemented by Microsoft in it’s Windows products. It is a widely used and established technology for sharing files between computers accross a network. RIAA charges include contributory copyright infringement accusing that Peng “has taken a network created for higher learning and academic pursuits and converted it into an emporium of music piracy where copyright infringement is simplified down to the click of a computer mouse”, and of direct copyright infringement for “copying and distributing hundreds of sound recordings over his system without the authorization of the copyright owners”. Fred Van Lohmann, Senior Intellectual Property Attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, volunteered to represent Peng in court.

    ….Jesse Jordan maintained and developed a website called “chewplastic” that allowed users of the website: http://ww.chewplastic.com (cached) to search for files shared on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Local Area Network. It appears that chewplastic.com deployed an application called “Phynd”, also an SMB file spider, to search and catalogue all “shared” files on computers connected to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s LAN. RIAA accuses Jesse Jordan of direct and contributory copyright infringement.

    ….Aaron Sherman under the direction of Associate Proffessor Mukkai Krishnamoorthy developed a network application called FlatLan. It was designed to work in conjunction with the program “Phynd”, an SMB file spider that search and catalogue all “shared” files on computers connected a Local Area Network. The Flatlan program Aaron Sherman created was then used to browse through the catalogue of “shared” files “Phynd” found. The software was distributed for free and deployed on a many different school networks including Bryant College, Lehigh University, Michigan Tech, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rice University, University of Texas, and Western New England College. The RIAA accuses Sherman of direct and contributory copyright infrigement. The complaint also states that Sherman “started a commercial enterprise to further profit from the acts of infringement”. The details to Shermans’ “commercial enterprise” are shown a cache www.flatlan.com’s “Products” page (cached) where he offers to sell “a complete Flatlan suite with unlimited FlatLan client licenses!”. Apparently the RIAA took him up on this offer and through “trade association, have themselves purchased from the Defendant his software for $500”.

    ….Joseph Nievelt maintained and deployed a website,www.mtu.flatlan.com, that allowed users to search for files shared on Michigan Technological University’s Local Area Network. It appears that www.mtu.flatlan.com used defendant Aaron Sherman’s SMB file spider application flatlan, to search and catalogue all “shared” files on computers connected to the MTU’s LAN. RIAA accuses Joseph Nievelt of direct and contributory copyright infringement.

The explanations of the allegations and links to complaints, resources and the like are terrific, but Rosen’s real contribution is in explaining the technology involved with these systems, how they differ from Napster, and how they are similar to technology BUILT RIGHT INTO WINDOWS. This is a must read.

Besides the arbitrary harshness of these suits and the negative PR that should accrue as a result, another foolish aspect of the matter is the betrayal felt by the RIAA’s partners, the universities themselves. Why should they help out now?

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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