RIAA Downs i2hub

By Jon Newton 11/17/05

i2hub is a network linking more than 200 universities from A (Arizona State) to Y (Yale) which Ed Felten once described as being like a, "set of express lanes for the Internet, built so that network traffic between Internet2 member institutions can go faster".

It shows, brilliantly, just how effective p2p communications can be.

Or it used to.

Jon Newton

Organized Music [read Vivendi Universal (France), Sony BMG (Japan, Germany), EMI Group (Britain) and Warner Music (American, but with a Canadian running it] has finally succeeded in shutting i2hub down. With a little, or a lot, of help from its friends, Hollywood Howard Berman and Lamar Smith, the man who wants file sharers thrown into jail.

"Last December two influential members of Congress sent a letter to Douglas E. Van Houweling, president of Internet2, asking him to crack down on the rogue network," says the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"The congressmen - Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, and Howard L. Berman, a Democrat from California - are the ranking members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property."

By an amazing coincidence, Organized Music's RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) recently bought its way into Internet2. It and fellow entertainment cartel bully organization the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are now full-blown corporate members.

i2hub, founded in 2004 by Wayne Chang, then a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, ran on p2p application Direct Connect.

But, "In April record companies and movie studios started filing lawsuits that accused students of using the network to pirate music and films," the Chronicle of Higher Education goes on.

"The Recording Industry Association of America has since filed suit against 635 i2hub users at 39 different institutions."

When Berman and Smith started their Kill i2hub on behalf of the Big Four, "Internet2 officials responded by sending the committee a report on the steps they had taken to control illegal file sharing, according to Lauren Rotman, Internet2's media-relations manager," says the story.

"Internet2 does not condone piracy, Ms. Rotman said in an e-mail interview. But campus officials, not Internet2 administrators, are 'in the best position to take responsibility for network issues that occur at the campus network level, including file sharing,' she wrote.

"As pressure mounted against i2hub, the network made an attempt to prove that it had legitimate applications, experimenting with features like a textbook exchange and a dating service. But the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. - which found that peer-to-peer networks could be held liable for acts of piracy if they "induced" the violations - further compromised i2hub's legal standing. In September the recording industry sent cease-and-desist notices to seven peer-to-peer networks, including i2hub.

Internet2 had probably been carrying a nonzero amount of infringing traffic for a long time, just because it is part of the Internet, said Felten in his i2hub post. What was different wasn't that some traffic moved 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.

"Given all of this, my guess is that the RIAA is pushing the Internet2 angle mostly for policial 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. And by painting Internet2 as a centrally-managed entity, the RIAA can imply that it is more regulable than the rest of the Internet."

i2hub founder Chang, "declined to comment on the reason for i2hub's closure," says says the Chronicle of Higher Education. "But he said in an e-mail interview on Tuesday that i2hub was already being commemorated by its campus fans. 'Students are hanging signs, painting campus boulders with Remember i2hub, etc., across the country,' he wrote."

Will i2hub's death make a major difference to p2p file sharing, particularly with respect to students?

Not even nearly.

OM boasts it's successfully prosecuted some 16,000 people, many hundreds of whom were students. And yet no-one has ever been found guilty of anything, and no-one has appeared before a judge.

The RIAA says its sue 'em all marketing campaign has resulted in significant numbers of file sharers swearing off the p2p networks in favour of corporate 'product'.

However, the truth is very different.

Around the world, in October, 2004, the number of individuals simultaneously logged onto the networks at any one time was 6,255,986, says p2p research company BigChampagne..

By this October, the number had soared to 9,168,812, OM lawsuits notwithstanding.

Stay tuned.


Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net 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.

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