Internet piracy has been a hot topic in recent weeks, but it's about to heat up even more.
With lawmakers all over the world struggling to agree upon copyright regimes that would disconnect people from the Internet, shut down websites simply for linking to infringing content and cut off whole advertising networks that support pirate domains, one might think the world was on the verge of plugging up the copied media loophole for good. But then, one would be wrong.
A piece of software getting a fresh look this week seems to have the answer that media pirates are looking for: invincibility, with zero liability for website operators. That's because this software, known as Tribler, does not require a website to track users sharing "Torrent" files, a peer-to-peer network protocol that enables computers to share files with thousands of others.
Such "tracker" websites, like The Pirate Bay and BTJunkie, have been going offline or switching domains in the wake of U.S. enforcement action against MegaUpload, a file sharing site that is accused of facilitating media piracy.
Tribler, in development for the last five years according to technology blog Torrent Freak, is a purely peer-to-peer network that requires no tracker, meaning it is impossible to shut down unless the whole Internet goes down with it.
The nature of its technology is completely decentralized, leaving moderation to the users. Individuals can rename files, flag phony downloads or viruses, create "channels" of verified downloads, and act as nodes that distribute lists of peers across the network.
In the recent U.S. debate over anti-piracy measures, absolutely none of the proposed enforcement mechanisms would affect Tribler: it is, quite literally, the content industry's worst nightmare come to life.
Much like when the original media piracy platform, Napster, was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America in the 90s, the Internet's most prolific have once again found another way around copyright enforcement.
The defeat of Napster and subsequent takedown resulted in the birth of peer-to-peer sharing networks like Gnutella and LimeWire. Once those clients similarly came under fire and began to falter under a legal barrage, BitTorrent was born.
Now that BitTorrent appears to be the primary target of new Internet regulations being adopted the world over, it is evolving as well. Where it may go next is anyone's guess -- but the same could be said of government enforcement.
And the digital arms race continues.
Photo: Flickr user Uncle Catherine.