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Webnoize Says Gnutella Can Be Policed

Gnutella’s rise in popularity can be managed according to a report issued yesterday.

In a report issued yesterday, Cambridge, Mass., based Webnoize, a leading research group focused on issues facing the digital entertainment industries, said that Gnutella’s rise in popularity can be managed. As Napster users slowly peel away because of restrictions placed on it by the RIAA and the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals, music industry executives fear that Gnutella will be the next big threat to rights holders. In yesterday’s report, P2P and the Gnutella Myth, Webnoize argues that despite the absence of any one company or central server to attack, there are ways of policing the file-sharing technology.

Webnoize suggests that there are two ways to monitor and combat the activities of Gnutella users. In the first, content owners can write small programs – called bots – that automatically search Gnutella for infringing files. “When infringing material is found, the bot notifies the copyright owner, who in turn can notify the user’s ISP of the infringement, beginning the process of blocking the file,” the report says. While this method is more labor-intensive than processes used to block file sharing on Napster, it is a possible solution to the Gnutella question.

ISPs also have a vested interest in combating Gnutella. The technology’s architecture presents massive bandwidth concerns for ISPs because each search request multiplies to thousands Gnutella clients across the network, causing huge bandwidth strain at ISPs. According to Webnoize, “ISPs have the power to stop Gnutella from existing on their networks. Specialize network equipment – called “packet sniffers” – identify P2P traffic and either restrict the amount of bandwidth it uses or bar it completely,” the report says.

Webnoize concludes that while Gnutella will not be a substitute for Napster, it is incumbent upon the content holders and ISPs to now take coordinated action that will prevent Gnutella from harming their business. “Given the content owners’ desire to stop copyright infringement, and the ISPs’ need to maintain network efficiency, Gnutella provides a catalyst for content owners and ISPs.”

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