Nemo's Tube: Distributed and Ad-Hoc File-Sharing

Sites like YouTube and MySpace have a copyright problem. Originally, ISPs were not held liable for user's content, as they were providing a service, or a conduit for that content. Users were liable for their own actions, as it should be. For various commercial and political reasons, erroneous judgements were passed against file-sharing networks as they could (and were) being used by individuals to disseminate content that others, particularly wealthy and influential media corporations, owned the copyright to. But file-sharing is not simply for breaking copyright, and should not be banned just because that it one use to which some people have put it. Furthermore, it should still be the individual uploaders who are regarded as responsible for what they upload, not the service that makes it possible, whether YouTube or MySpace. That no court action was taken when YouTube had no money, but only when Google bought it, speaks volumes, all to the detriment of those who take action against the service provider, rather than against the copyright violator.

Here is a description of an alternative, more distributed system, that should be more secure from court action, and should allow the continued development of technologies based upon file-sharing.

To begin with, develop a media player application as an open source program and thoroughly document it.

Third party providers could supply, free or for a fee, downloadable CODECs for different media files. The application could find these sites, and showcase the offered CODECs, handling transactions from within it using PayPal or a similar payment system.

But this is no ordinary player. It can also download file-sharing 'RingWads'. If you download a RingWad, the player automatically makes you a member of a file sharing ring, either a common internet one, or a private ring (which is either open to all, or invitation only). You get slider controls for free HD space and free bandwidth.

So with the BitTorrent RingWad, you are a member of the BitTorrent file sharing system. The application would not be a single-service client, but could operate with any extant file-sharing system once the RingWad is downloaded to it.

This file-sharing client would not be reliant on 'pointer' or 'index' sites listing available files. It could build its own personal list of available files by surfing the net for recognisable files and links, and testing them. You leave it running for 10 minutes, and get a list of files you can access. The player could search randomly for files, search sites you tell it to, search aggregating sites, or search via the search engines.

Built-in to the player would be the ability to create your own private or public file-sharing webring (a VPFSN or virtual, private file-sharing network), and offer free or charged-for access (via PayPal etc), with password control if you want. These web-rings act as mini file sharing networks on groups of PCs. These groups can join together to create larger ad hoc webrings, but need no dedicated clients and can vanish as quickly as they form. They have no need for sites listing available files, as each client generates its own. A simple launch button launches a file from your HD to your private or public web ring. Web Rings could share encryption for moving encrypted files around. Ringmasters could choose to join their ring to another to create a larger ring.

Everything but the client, the CODECs and the RingWads for the public access file sharing systems (that 'skin' the player as a specific file sharing client) is operated by the users on and from their own PCs.

The next step would be to build a processing engine, and virtualisation into the media player.

Distributed file-sharing (and ultimately processor-sharing) in an easy-to-use package. This will happen. File-sharing is not simply a way of breaking copyright, it is fundamental to the future of our networking infrastructure.

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