P2P ISP Filtering Test Published, Labels Deny Ensuing Criticism

It was a study few had caught on to. Internet Evolution launched a study to determine exactly how good were the vendors ISP-level P2P filtering software. After the study was published, French “bloggers” reportedly shot down filtering software as ineffective. The study was funded by major French record labels.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The Study

Late last month, a study was published on how effective the vendors P2P filtering technology is. According to the company ‘Internet Evolution’:

First, they (p2p filtering technology) provide Internet service providers (ISPs) with a way to take back control of their networks by preventing residential users of their services from gobbling up vast amounts of capacity using bandwidth-hogging peer-to peer (P2P) applications

Second, they give the music industry a powerful new weapon in their fight to prevent widespread use of P2P tools by consumers to illegally exchange copyrighted video and music content over the Internet. Entertainment mega-corporations see the need to win this battle as critical in stanching their hemorrhaging revenues.

So, SNEP (Syndicat National de l’Édition Phonographique) commissioned a study on how effective this technology really was at blocking supposedly illegal traffic. Internet Evolution conducted the study saying that there’s 28 companies that claim that they have the technology to filter out P2P traffic at the Internet Service Provider level. So the company invited these vendors to go through a rigorous test. Apparently, there was no shortage of companies tucking their tails in and running away:

The results for the products tested were interesting. But perhaps even more significant was the number of companies that declined to have anything to do with the test, or withdrew their products after starting the test process.

EANTC invited 28 vendors of P2P filtering products to participate in the evaluation. The group included all of the established players and market leaders ��” Allot Communications (Nasdaq: ALLT), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ellacoya Networks (recently acquired by Arbor Networks Inc. ), F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Narus Inc. , and Sandvine Inc. (London: SAND; Toronto: SVC) ��” as well as a host of lesser known startups. One invitee, Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR), did not respond to the invitation. Another, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), responded that it did not sell a specialized P2P filter appropriate for the test ��” which is surprising and noteworthy in and of itself.

Out of 28 software vendors, 5 actually agreed to start the test and only 2 allowed the results to be published. Internet Evolution describes the results as “not perfect”

Identifying traffic proved difficult at the best of times. Bear in mind that these were likely the two top performing applications. According to the study, the two vendors which actually agreed to have the results published had the following detection rates (note: Samples): (Ellacoya E30) BitTorrent – 82%, FastTrack – 1%, WinMX – 7%, Soulseek – 1%, (Ipoque PRX-5G) WinMX – 0%, BitTorrent – 97%, Soulseek – 5%.

But wait, what about encrypted traffic? This was also tested and the results were obviously less than stellar on the vendors part. eDonkey traffic completely fell off the radar for both vendors while only Ipoque PRX-5G could detect even half of the RC4 encrypted BitTorrent traffic.

Then there’s dumping the traffic onto MPLS L3 VPN. Interestingly enough, only Arbor/Ellacoya even had the capability in the first place, but the performance was above 90% for the three protocols tested. There’s plenty of other interesting findings in the study overall and definitely worth the read. For some, it may only serve to confirm that ISP level p2p filtering is not ready for “prime time” given that the existing encryption has a tendency to circumvent the software already. This goes over top of the well known fact that once moves are made to filter out P2P traffic, many developers of the technology are more than willing to develop new encryption methods to circumvent any new measure that comes their way.

Record Labels Response

Wikipedia defines SNEP with the following:

The Syndicat national de l’édition phonographique (SNEP) is the inter-professional organisation which protects the interests of the French record industry. SNEP was established in 1922, and has 48 member companies.

SNEP’s responsibilities include collecting and distributing royalty payments for broadcast and performance, preventing copyright infringement of its members’ works (including music piracy), and sales certification of silver, gold, platinum and diamond records and videos.

According to a report (Google translation) that was translated by Charles Eddy, a ZeroPaid reader:

The record industry’s reaction was unexpected. “I don’t reject the results that were published. But the reporting and analyses that were done are wrong. This is just a fiasco,” argues Hervé Rony, general director of Snep. “Our approach was not based on polemics, but on science. We wanted to know if it’s possible to filter peer to peer protocols at the ISP level without paralyzing the rest of the traffic.”

Apparently, the record labels in France are not happy with the response to the study and goes so far as to deny its very existence of the criticisms (at least, this is what the translation seems to offer) Either way, it only means bad news for the copyright industry trying to simply block P2P traffic on the internet.

Unanswered Questions

What didn’t seem clear is the question about legitimate P2P traffic like the sharing of Open Source software like Ubuntu. Another question might be, what about authorized content like the millions of Creative Commons released content or, say, the release of the Nine Inch Nails album on BitTorrent? On the surface, it appears as though all traffic is presumed to be the transfer of copyrighted material – no exceptions. Not exactly good news for open source developers who are fans of P2P technology in the first place – or any content producers in general who want to actually give P2P a spin to see if it boosts sales.

Another thing is how the copyright industry will take the results other than denying the existence of criticism over the study. If the first response of a vast majority of the vendors to a test is to run for cover or block the publication of the results, are they even worthy of investment in the first place for ISPs or the copyright industry, both of which these companies purport to “save” in the first place.

If vendors can’t fully cope with P2P traffic of today, how can they even begin to cope with P2P traffic of tomorrow?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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