Researchers have come up with a way of helping the record industry to shut down peer-to-peer (P2P) networks guilty of distributing copyrighted movies and MP3s.
A white paper recently released by two Washington University students reveals that distributed file sharing networks, notorious for making copyrighted material freely available, may not be as hardy as first thought.
"By utilising a modified version of the 'depensation model' commonly found in ecological models of fish and birds, one interesting implication is that P2P networks may be susceptible to 'catastrophes' - situations in which the P2P network's user base has negative natural growth," the report said.
Andrew Chen and Andrew Schroeder, the authors of the report, said that it is not necessary to take action against potentially millions of users of the network, but just a subset.
They identified four strategies that could be used to force such a network over its "tipping point" and cause a terminal "catastrophe":
- Randomly selecting and litigating against users engaging in piracy
- Creating fake users that carry incorrectly named or damaged files
- Broadcasting fake queries in order to degrade network performance
- Selectively targeting litigation against the small percentage of users that carry the majority of the files.
Chen and Schroeder argued that 'poisoning' a P2P network in such a way would eventually force a majority of users to abandon the network in favour of more reliable alternatives, such as those provided by the labels themselves.
The idea is to create enough trouble to drive the "critical mass" away and make files so hard to find that the network becomes practically unusable.
"Whatever method is used to stop users on the P2P network will intimidate or otherwise discourage new users from joining," said the report.
Although the strategies would not eliminate P2P networks and piracy, they have the potential to restrict it to small and scattered pockets, rather than across the general internet population.
The full paper can be found here.
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