Internet2, the RIAA, and the Princeton Professor

By Jon Newton 4/16/05

Ed Felten’s Freedom to Tinker blog does an excellent job of putting the RIAA’s current attempt to use the i2hub as a foil (as it tries to sue people who share online into becoming good little consumers) into its correct perspective.

“The new angle in this round of suits is that i2hub traffic uses the Internet2 network,” he writes, going on:

“The RIAA press release is careful to call Internet2 a ‘specialized’ network, but many press stories have depicted it a private network, separate from the main Internet. In fact, Internet2 is not really a separate network. It's more like a set of express lanes for the Internet, built so that network traffic between Internet2 member institutions can go faster.”

Jon Newton

Felten points out that the Washington Post gets this “seriously wrong” when it calls Internet2 a, "faster version of the Web" and says, "more and more college students have moved off the Web to trade music on Internet2, a separate network …”

“Internet2 has probably been carrying a nonzero amount of infringing traffic for a long time, just because it is part of the Internet,” he states.

“What's different about i2hub is not that some of its traffic goes over Internet2, but that it was apparently structured so that its traffic would usually travel over Internet2 links. In theory, this could make transfer of any large file, whether infringing or not, faster.

“The extra speed of Internet2 doesn't seem like much of an issue for music files, though. Music files are quite small and can be downloaded pretty quickly on ordinary broadband connections. Any speedup from using i2hub would mainly affect movie downloads, since movie files are much larger than music files. And yet it was the music industry, not the movie industry, that brought these suits.”

Felten adds that given the above, his guess is the RIAA is pushing the Internet2 angle mostly for political and public relations reasons.

“By painting Internet2 as a separate network, the RIAA can imply that the transfer of infringing files over Internet2 is a new kind of problem requiring new regulation,” he says. “And by painting Internet2 as a centrally-managed entity, the RIAA can imply that it is more regulable than the rest of the Internet.

“Another unique aspect of i2hub is that it could only be used, supposedly, by people at univerisities that belong to the Internet2 consortium, which includes more than 200 schools. The i2hub website pitches it as a service just ‘by students, for students’. Some have characterized i2hub as a private filesharing network. That may be true in a formal sense, as not everybody could get onto i2hub. But the potential membership was so large that i2hub was, for all intents and purposes, a public system.

“We don't know exactly how the RIAA or its agents got access to i2hub to gather the information behind the suits, but it's not at all surprising that they were able to do so. If students thought that they couldn't get caught if they shared files on i2hub, they were sadly mistaken.”


Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.


The U2 iPod is available on Amazon

Other MP3 stories:
What Makes a Journalist? Thoughts on Apple and Think Secret
Can Free Broadcast TV Really Be Napsterized?


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