Morales '03 creates 'Napster 2'

by Zachary Goldstein | 11/25/02 6:00am

Countless suitors have tried and failed to fill the void left after recording industry lawsuits killed popular file-sharing program Napster, but a new entry on the Dartmouth campus may be the best substitute yet.

Billed by some as "Napster 2," a program called Direct Connect is facilitating a boom in peer-to-peer file sharing on campus.

Direct Connect is a file-sharing program that operates very similarly to Napster. Users share certain files on their own computers; they have the ability to search for files on others' computers and download them.

Unlike Napster, however, Dartmouth students are using Direct Connect's file-sharing capabilities on a Dartmouth-only peer-to-peer network, which was set up by Joseph Morales '03.

Morales runs the entire network from his computer, which acts as a hub to facilitate sharing between other people's computers.

"I got the idea from my friends at Rutgers who set a similar system up and found it very successful," Morales said. "It took me five minutes to set it up here on my computer and get it working."

The email making its way around campus that informs students of the new peer-to-peer program is titled "Napster 2" and explains in detail how to download Direct Connect. Morales claims that he originally sent the letter to "like four friends in my house," and it spread from there.

Included in the email is the website from which to download both Mac and PC versions of Direct Connect, and setup instructions -- including the Internet Protocol address needed to connect to the network. The IP address belongs to Morales' computer.

In the past few weeks, over 600 users have logged on to the Dartmouth Direct Connect network, and terabytes of information are currently being shared.

Bill Brawley, Director of Network Services, said he has seen no change in the traffic over the network. He noted that he is primarily concerned with traffic over the external bandwidth, which the College pays for. Direct Connect operates over the much-larger internal bandwidth allotted to the campus network.

"We monitor incoming and outgoing data strings at the border, and peer-to-peer traffic is marked as recreational and given a low priority," Brawley said. "I haven't seen any increased traffic over the last week passing the border monitor, and I have not noticed any significant activity changes on internal networks, either."

Morales contended that for this reason Direct Connect is better than similar programs like Kazaa or Gnutella it runs on abundant and faster internal bandwidth instead of using up expensive external bandwidth.

"People who were previously using other programs like Kazaa or something will be using Direct Connect now," Morales said. "It's cheaper for the college, and should speed up external Internet connections."

Brawley, who deals with copyright complaints that are sent to the school because of illegal sharing on the campus network, said he tries to prevent any illegal sharing of copyrighted materials on peer-to-peer networks, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

Brawley receives complaints from the owners of copyrighted materials and companies that represent those owners, requesting that Dartmouth, because it is an Internet service provider, remove any copyrighted files from its network.

"I get one or two notifications each week from organizations that claim to have discovered shared copyrighted material on our network," Brawley said. "We don't police actively -- we respond reactively."

Most commonly these notifications come from associations such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America. However, some new companies such as MediaForce and NetPD are also sending out notifications on behalf of clients who hire them to search for illegally shared copies of their copyrighted material.

Brawley noted that he just recently received a notification via email from MediaForce, on behalf of Warner Bros., because a copy of the new Harry Potter movie was found circulating on the Dartmouth network.

Gary Millin, president of New York-based MediaForce, explained his company's role as doing the "dirty work" for the owners of copyrighted materials.

"We facilitate what a copyright owner would be forced to do on his own when trying to search out violations of his copyright, and we do the searching for him," Millin said.

In an attempt to prevent these copyright violations from occurring on campus networks, firewalls -- which slow down the transmission of certain data -- have been set up on external bandwidths. But these firewalls do not slow down Direct Connect, allowing students to pursue their downloading interests at blazingly fast rates, according to Morales.

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