Microsoft backs torrent blocker
14 May 2012
Last updated at 17:37
Blocking tool Pirate Pay draws its name from controversial piracy site The Pirate Bay
A Russian company has developed software it says can disrupt and prevent people from downloading pirated content.
Pirate Pay has been backed by Microsoft and has so far worked with Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures to stop “thousands” of downloads.
The tool poses as real bit torrent users but then “confuses” peer-to-peer networks, causing disconnections.
Critics argue that the method will be ineffective in the long term.
The entertainment industry claims that the downloading of pirated material costs copyright holders billions of pounds in lost revenue every year.
Last month, the British Phonographic Industry won a court battle to force UK internet service providers to block its customers from accessing high-profile piracy site The Pirate Bay.
However, the true extent of the financial impact is strongly questioned by internet rights campaigners.
Bit torrent blog Torrent Freak reported that Pirate Pay began life as traffic management software for internet service providers.
From here they discovered it could be used to swamp peer-to-peer networks – which are used to share the files – with false information.
“After creating the prototype, we realised we could more generally prevent files from being downloaded, which meant that the program had great promise in combating the spread of pirated content,” said Andrei Klimenko, the company’s chief executive, in an interview with Russia Beyond the Headlines.
The technology has received high-profile praise from the president of Microsoft Russia – Pirate Pay was awarded one million rubles (£62,000, $100,000) from a seed investment fund set up by the company behind Windows.
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You don’t solve social issues with technical fixes”
University of Cambridge
A recent campaign saw Pirate Pay “protect” recent Russian film Vysotsky. Thanks to God, I am Alive, made by Walt Disney Studios.
Pirate Pay said it blocked 44,845 attempted illegal downloads of the film.
However, as the Torrent Freak blog pointed out, the blocked downloaders might have simply just tried again later.
Although exact details on how the system operates are not known outside of the company, security researcher Richard Clayton from the University of Cambridge told the BBC it was a process that could work, if only in the short term.
“If you flood the network with lots of lies, then you will be short of real things.
“[But] the networks are robust about this in the long term because you will say to your peer ‘please give me this data’, and when it gives you the data it will say ‘this doesn’t match’ and throw it away.”
Mr Clayton, who blogs about such issues, said peer-to-peer networks would eventually adapt, sharing information about “bogus” peers such as those reportedly utilised by companies like Pirate Pay.
Mr Clayton added: “You don’t solve social issues with technical fixes.
“The social issue here is that a lot of people think that the legal offerings are too expensive and don’t provide what they want.
“Once you solve that, nobody’s going to want to mess around with complicated bits of software to get what they need.”