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Fair exchange on the Internet

When swapping songs or videos on the Internet, users are often unsure of the legal situation in each case. Is the exchange legitimate? Or does it breach a copyright? The CONFUO©O software protects users and copyright holders against the illegal distribution of content.

Which songs are allowed to be exchanged via the Internet? Does the exchange infringe any copyrights? Users are often at a loss, and copyright holders are annoyed. The exchange of songs, videos or podcasts usually takes place via peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, where all computers have equal rights and each user can simultaneously offer and download content files. The advantage of these networks is that each computer provides its own storage and computing capacity and the operating costs are distributed. However, the system also holds disadvantages: Once an artist or a radio station has placed content in a P2P network, the distribution process takes on a life of its own and cannot be stopped. The CONFUO©O software recently developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics IGD will now finally put a stop to these problems. “If anyone tries to swap a song to which they have no rights, CONFUO©O prevents the exchange,” says IGD scientist Martin Schmucker. “In this way, users can rest assured that they are acting lawfully at all times, and the system operators and developers responsible for the security of the system are also protected against nasty surprises.” A further advantage is that files previously placed in the network can be withdrawn at any time. But how does the software know which songs or films may legitimately be swapped? “All copyrighted material is blacklisted,” says Schmucker. “CONFUO©O compares the contents on the basis of song characteristics, rather like the melody.” This has a clear advantage over comparing bit patterns, in that the content can be recognized even if it is saved in a zip file or other file formats. The surveillance software is located on a central server, while the content is stored on the peers. CONFUO©O makes it possible to track the number of exchanges that have taken place. If someone enters a song that is unknown to the system, a warning message will indicate that this person is responsible for the content. If a copyright is breached, the extent of the damage can be precisely determined and the user can be held liable. “Moreover, the information as to how often certain content has been exchanged allows for any number of business models,” says Schmucker. “One example would be to evenly distribute a flat-rate fee to all copyright holders.” CONFUO©O will be presented at the Fraunhofer stand (Hall 9, Stand B36) at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover from March 15 to 21.

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