The Big Hack : Is it flawed?

So, these guys claim they’ve created the first “Brightnet”. A network where filesharers will be able to download copyrighted materials with impunity and without hiding! They give all the details here.

And while the aforementionned white pages are convincing, I remain skeptical. Is this really possible? Does the method described within really make it impossible to identify infringers? Will this be the new Napster?

Read the whitepages and let us know what you think. Several members of the project can be found on IRC (, channel: #thebighack) if you have any questions for them.

I’ll confess I didn’t read it in great detail, but it looks like they are making extravagant claims about a novel method of file compression/encoding. I say ‘novel’, but in fact, we’ve seen things like this before and they have always been bullshit. Sounds like what they’re saying is that instead of sharing a file (which consists of a long series of specific numbers), they will instead share a simple, compact mathematical formula which, when calculated, results in that specific long series of numbers.

I’m pretty sure that this violates a few hard principles of information theory.

Ah, that’s not quite what they’re saying. I had a hard time understanding it until I read the white paper.

Bah, it’s crap. It relies on a flawed understanding of the legal system. Logical consistency has never been a required feature of legal reasoning and intent counts for more than anything else.

This is just a fancy version of encryption wrapped up in a lot of specious argument.

Could you summarise it for us please?

OK, I re-read it. I’m not sure that I was all that wrong about what I said earlier, but in any case, it’s all a bunch of sophistry based on coerced definitions, the chief one being that a digital work is ‘just a sequence of numbers’.
Anything can be absurdly reduced like that, and therefore any law could be argued:
“It’s not a gun in my hand, officer, it’s just an arrangement of metal atoms
“It’s not a sheep that you’ve caught me having sex with, darling, it’s just a collection of proteins

Sure, if you strip away, or purposely ignore the function of an object - what it does, the object becomes suitably meaningless that you can speciously argue “it’s not an [object] that does [function], it’s just a thingy

This is a pretty good summary, and not as in-depth as the white papers.
The essence is that no stored block of data corresponds to one file. Each block is itself a part to many different files. So there is no way to tell if a stored block is a part to a copyrighted file.

I think these are flawed analogies. Digital representation of content is malleable, but you can’t rearrange metal atoms or proteins at will. The “Brightnet” reduces files to reusable, content-independent building blocks.

I certainly can’t say anything regarding the legality of it all, so hopefully someone with intimate knowledge of copyright law will drop in.

Mangetout is correct. They’re not flawed analogies. In essence it’s like any other too precious “I’m not touching you / stealing from you / harming you” undergraduate sophist argument. The law on the ground is what the lawmakers and the Judges say it is. Too cute BS like this will get taken apart like a Tinkertoy it it ever gets to the level of being legally argued.

As far as I can tell, this only adds one layer of redirection that the RIAA will have to overcome in order to file a lawsuit.

When someone searches for a file, they get, from a variety of sources, a recipe full of SHA-1 hashes for the blocks they need. Then they ask for blocks that match those hashes. So, in order to sue those offering certain blocks, all they’d have to do is find the recipe that uses those blocks, then find the peers offering them.

It’s possible that someone would be able to get away with it by arguing that the block was actually used, in his own cache, as part of some innocuous file, but I doubt it. For one, that would require a judge that could follow the math. But, more importantly, it would require actually going to trial, which very few people can afford anyway. The whole point of these lawsuits is to collect a few grand in settlement and move on.

Someone in a digg comment I was readon on the story mentioned that “solutions” like these arise because people think that the law is written like computer code, and all you have to do is find an action that won’t trip a specific definition. But that’s obviously false. The fact that the law treats certain numbers differently than other numbers is interesting to think about intellectually, but xor isn’t the magic key to legal invulnerability.

On another note, I think that a network of this type would be trivially easy to pollute, probably to the extent of complete unusability. Just introduce some hash collisions for a few blocks, and all kinds of shit goes all screwy. Given the obfuscation required, the system seems designed so that a single failure can corrupt huge amounts of data.

I’ve got an even better idea. Let’s make a system that takes a sequence of numbers and converts them to a sequence of magnetically alligned particles. Then we can provide a system that converts the magnetic sequence back to numbers. Nobody will be able to say we have illegally copied IP because it’s just magnetic forces, we haven’t stored the numbers.

Thank you. This is the kind of answer I was looking for. There are two things I’d like to give me feedback on:

1st: With 128 KB size blocks, there are roughly INFINITY possible blocks. I think the number 2^128000 is vastly superior to that of the number of atoms in the universe. This means that if anyone has a chunk needed to reassemble a copyrighted file, there is effectively almost 100% chance that he is the culprit. Therefore, the system offers no protection.

Assume that 100 million OFF users have 100GB each of hashes. that’s 10^18 (quintillion) bytes. Using some basic math, we find out that 2^59 is 5.8e18 which is a lower figure. This means that If the chunks used were only 59KB big, then a downloader would certainly get most of his chunks from people who did NOT have the copyright infringing file and who simply happened to randomly have one of the ingredients necessary to construct it. It’s like me saying I need block number 5412365125478563 which happens to be notepad. If I request 10 of those 16 digit numbers, i would be able to reconstruct Msn messenger. a thousand numbers for a DVD-quality movie and so on and so forth. In this case, the whole protocol would have to be outlawed because participation implies you are going to help infringe on copyright sometimes.

2nd: Since the SHA1 values are only for blocks of exactly 128000KB, wouldn’t it be extremely hard to the point of impossibility to create a collision and generate a garbage block of exactly 128000KB with the same SHA1 signature? This would get harder as the filesize got smaller I believe.

Ummm…yes, you can, at least you can with metal components; pleading “But we thought they were oil pipes!” didn’t stop people/businesses getting into big trouble for supplying components of the Iraqi Supergun, because what they actually meant when they said it is “We’re pretending they’re oil pipes”.

Pointless/meaningless distinction; the process, as a whole, acts to reproduce the work without authorisation to do so. That the process happens to do this in a clever and perhaps undetectable way does not make a jot of difference to whether the law considers it a breach of intellectual property rights.

If you’d like another analogy; try this one; I can reproduce JK Rowling’s latest novel by merely selecting content-independent, reusable blocks called characters of the alphabet. Rowling has no right to get shirty with me, because she didn’t create the book, only rearranged the letters of the alphabet, which anyone should be able to do without getting into trouble for it.
Of course that’s silly, but it’s very similar, logically, to what is being presented here.