15 August 2006

After Darknets, Brightnets

The Owner-Free Filing system has often been described as the first brightnet; A distributed system where no one breaks the law, so no one need hide in the dark.

OFF is a highly connected peer-to-peer distributed file system. The unique feature of this system is that it stores all of its internal data in a multi-use randomized block format. In other words there is not a one to one mapping between a stored block and its use in a retrieved file. Each stored block is simultaneously used as a part of many different files. Individually, however, each block is nothing but arbitrary digital white noise.

Owner-Free refers both to the fact that nobody owns the system as a whole and nobody can own any of the data blocks stored in the system.

It's a fabulously clever approach, a simplified explanation of which you can find on Ars Technica.

Anyone who can write

Traditional rules do not apply. Mathematics is the only law.

is clearly on the side of the angels. But I fear that all this cleverness is indeed a matter of digital angels dancing on the head of a digital pin. The maths is indubitably delightful, but it wouldn't stand a chance in any court, which would simply dismiss the details and concentrate on the result: that copyrighted material is being accessed in different places.

It's all very well to say

No creative works, copyrighted or not, are ever communicated between OFF peers. Only meaningless blocks of random data. No tangible copies of creative works are ever stored on OFF peers.

But this cannot be literally true. If it were meaningless data, it would not be possible to access the copyrighted material; even if it is disembodied slightly, that meaning has to be present in the system, and transmitted between different users. Therein lies the infringment according to current copyright laws.

Mathematics is not, alas, the only law.

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