Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

RIAA 0wnZ your computer, apparently

After following one of the links that appeared in that BlogSnob panel on your left, I ended up at a page at the Neohapsis Archives. The page has a copy of an email forwarded to a discussion list from someone who was recruited by the RIAA to create a worm-like tool for monitoring users of P2P networks. It claims that 95% of P2P nodes are affected, and that anyone who connects to these nodes will have their computer transparently searched for media files (by using exploits in media applications), with the list being sent to the RIAA for use as future evidence.

It’s the last part of that which scares me. I have a large collection of music on my computer, and I am proud to say that most of it is legally obtained (in that I own the original CD and have merely ripped a copy onto my hard disk for sheer convinience). Yes, okay, not all of it but most of the music that I have downloaded is music that is either rare, over-priced or plain unavailable in this country.
If it merely searched the music I was actually sharing, it wouldn’t have anything to worry about as this is mostly music I’ve downloaded from sites like and the similar, and the artists who created them probably won’t care if they’re traded. In fact, they’d probably appreciate it. Any other music is not shared, and as a result I’m not breaking the law in that respect.
But anyhow, I tend not to use any of the media players that are currently affected (which includes Winamp, Windows Media Player and XMMS), so I shouldn’t be open to the exploits that the worm uses.
Besides, isn’t this thing illegal anyway? Or did the US congress pas that silly bill that gave the RIAA the right to gain unauthorised access to people’s private material? Ah well, even if it legal in the States, it probably isn’t here, and it’s not like I’m a big P2P user in any case. Especially as my client-du-jour, WinMX, is currently circulating a trojan horse virus – thanks to Andy for that. I do use Shareaza from time to time too, since it’s one of the few clients that works from behind the Great Firewall of Bradford. Morpheus also works, but, well, it’s Morpheus, isn’t it?
Of course, the RIAA, BPI and other music industry associations could do one very simple thing to cut piracy: reduce the price of music CDs. The BPI (British Phonographic Industry) are already getting in a glutter about falling sales of singles – well, maybe that has something to do with the fact they represent terrible value for money? Until 1998, a CD single in the UK was usually £2 to £4, and could have up to 40 minutes of audio on it (allowing for some singles to be as long as some very short albums). Since then, singles have been reduced to 20 minutes, yet the prices for singles have remained pretty much static, despite the customer sometimes getting only half of what they used to be able to buy.
This is particularly prevalent in dance music (the genre I’m most in to) since most of the music comes as singles – very few artists ever get round to making full albums. When you buy a single, you usually get the radio version, plus the original version and maybe a remix by someone else. But before 1998 you would get several remixes. What’s more is that many other EU countries don’t have this rule, so you end up buying imported CDs, which again have highly inflated prices – so inflated that an official body (either the European Commission or the UK’s Office of Fair Trading) is investigating whether this is illegal. I hope they find that it is.
There, I’ll step down from my soapbox now.
Talking of things getting into your computer without your permission, Wired News has an article about that sodding Xupiter toolbar, which has been creeping up on IE users recently. It’s a nightmare to remove too, though the obligatory link to Spybot S&D is provided. Sometimes, being a Mozilla user has its advantages.


  1. Can you fix your a href in this neil!