Internet2: Orchestrating the End of the Internet?

Posted by Philip Galanter | Fri Mar 4th 2005 12:51 p.m.

(Please consider for Rare/Digest to correct factual errors.)

A few days ago Jon Ippolito posted a sort of manifesto positing
Internet2 as a threat to the kind of internet artists and academics
would like to continue to use.

I know Jon a bit from my MARCEL involvement and elsewhere. Jon's a
really smart guy with a keen gift for deft rhetoric, and I am sure he
means well.

Unfortunately Jon's post invokes several basic misunderstandings of
the related technologies. These confusions are no mere technical
quibbles. They are fundamental to the central thesis that somehow
the Internet2 effort may bring about the death of the internet.

This couldn't be more wrong.

I'll let the basic facts, as corrected in the following, speak for themselves.

>By this July, every DVD player and TiVo box will sniff for a
>"broadcast flag" that prevents it from copying digital TV
>broadcasts. This hardware intervention effectively destroys even the
>possibility of fair use, since artists and educators cannot
>transform, parody, or criticize what they cannot record.* The
>broadcast flag does not prevent making recordings for time shifting
>or other personal "fair use".

This is simply not true. There are hairs to be split, but basically
(1) the broadcast flag only applies to over-the-air broadcasts (not
cable, satellite, or internet streaming), and (2) it will not prevent
copying for fair use. For example, you will still be able to record
over-the-air broadcast TV shows at home for later use.

The broadcast flag system *will* prevent large scale redistribution,
i.e. massive piracy. But this has always been illegal...even in the
era of videotape.

http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000717032165/

>The technology behind Internet2 *breaks* anything remotely
>resembling a broadcast business model, which is why the MPAA will do
>its best to disarm the technology by installing Digital Rights
>Management directly in its routers to stop interesting content from
>ever getting into the pipeline.

Again, this is simply not true. Router level digital rights
management is not being considered by any of the internet standards
bodies. It's not even over the horizon. However, the current
worldwide internet upgrade from IPv4 to IPv6 *does* make multicast an
intrinsic part of the protocol rather than an add-on. And multicast
is *exactly* the technology a broadcast model needs.

But multicast also benefits "the little guy" because in principle
independent artists will no longer have to pay for increased server
capacity as their audience grows. The shared network, rather than
the server, will distribute the stream to as many viewers as are
interested.

So if anything, "broadcast" related technical changes in Internet2
(and eventually other networks) will serve as a democratizing
equalizer.

And by the way, IPv6 multicast has *no* built-in Digital Rights
Management. None. And routers under IPv6 remain "dumb" contrary to
implications otherwise.

(As a footnote, multicast is also the enabling protocol technology
that makes the Access Grid, MARCEL's current platform of choice,
possible.)

http://www.tcpipguide.com/free/t_IPv6MulticastandAnycastAddressing.htm

>For all its talk of community and access, Internet2 seems to be
>offering a backwards-thinking hierarchic model of culture, a sort of
>Great Performances meets Reality TV.

Again...not true. Reasonable people can disagree when it comes to
matters of esthetic taste, but contrary to Jon's central thesis
Internet2 technology remains both content and application agnostic.

Elsewhere he mentions "privileged" isochronous channels. But
isochronous channels don't, and can't, even exist under either IPv4
or IPv6 or on either Internet2 or "internet1".

The ability to quickly create improvised collaborative groups was
recognized as being among the highest application priorities in the
earliest pre-planning of Internet2. Application level efforts such
as the Internet2 Commons, VRVS, and indeed the very Access Grid
technology that MARCEL depends on, are some of the fruit of this
early vision.

Today on Internet2 non-hiearchical social interaction isn't
speculation...it's already well established standard practice.

And when it comes to Internet2 *content* people are free to do what
they will. If one finds the current crop of artistic efforts to be
wanting the best, and entirely invited, response is to go out and
create something better.

To sum up, there is simply no factual basis for any Internet2 vrs
MARCEL conflict.

And I personally look forward to working further with both!
  • Philip Galanter | Fri Mar 4th 2005 2:05 p.m.
    Oh drat. I see that I screwed up the editing of one of the quotes
    from Jon's original post.

    So I'm posting this correction to my own post....

    Jon originally said:

    >By this July, every DVD player and TiVo box will sniff for a
    >"broadcast flag" that prevents it from copying digital TV
    >broadcasts. This hardware intervention effectively destroys even the
    >possibility of fair use, since artists and educators cannot
    >transform, parody, or criticize what they cannot record

    And I accidently appended this line while editing my response making
    it look like Jon said the following:

    >The broadcast flag does not prevent making recordings for time
    >shifting or other personal "fair use".

    sorry about that! Phil
  • Eric Dymond | Fri Mar 4th 2005 10:40 p.m.
    Sorry if I recoup the other response.
    The semantic Web, which defines the rules of Internet2 do not exclude criticism or debate.
    To misconstrue a technology this way is irresponsible.
    Control is no more on the horizon in a semantically connected web than a differentiated, distorted network that we now call internet 1.
    Connecting and disseminating discourse should be easier and more pointed in Internet2.
    Before you judge, please read the ww3.org standard for the new Internet.
    That said, it will be easier for providers to filter information with the new standards, thats not even up for debate. If you have even a basic understanding of programming this is obvious.
    http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/
    we will be posting an artist friendly version this May.
    Eric
  • Jon Ippolito | Thu Mar 17th 2005 7:56 a.m.
    Thanks for this thoughtful response, Phil. It's hard for me to disagree with someone who is so plugged into Internet2--and says such nice things about me. But I'll do my best, with the help of Google and the EFF's Seth Schoen.

    > (1) the broadcast flag only applies to over-the-air broadcasts (not
    >cable, satellite, or internet streaming

    That's basically true--although Seth tells me the jury is still out on whether the flag applies to cable. In any case, Hollywood didn't need to lobby for a broadcast flag on cable or satellite broadcasts because those providers already can (and generally do) slap on even stricter DRM. The FCC approved this stricter form of exclusion--with minor limitations--in their recent "Plug and Play" proceeding.

    http://www.eff.org/IP/Video/HDTV/FCC_PnP_Ruling.pdf

    > (2) [the broadcast flag] will not prevent
    >copying for fair use. For example, you will still be able to record
    >over-the-air broadcast TV shows at home for later use.

    Yes, if you use software or hardware that meets Hollywood's specification. While in theory such a device might let consumers do everything they're legally allowed to do, in reality the MPAA has no incentive to encourage devices that let consumers do something Hollywood won't profit by. Jack Valenti isn't really interested in letting you freely record digital TV with your current DVD burner, email a clip from a President's press conference to your mom, or create a high-definition video installation based on an archive of short TV clips.

    http://bpdg.blogs.eff.org/archives/000148.html
    http://www.digitalconsumer.org/bcastflag/info.html
    http://www.artnewsonline.com/currentarticle.cfm?typethature&art_id26

    To be sure, Jack doesn't have the direct authority to approve or disallow new PC tuner cards and DVD players. But before the broadcast flag, Hollywood had no recognized legal interest in appealing an FCC decision. Now that there's an FCC ruling designed specifically to protect their own interests, the movie studios are hiring expensive lawyers to do just that.

    In the short term, some consumers may not notice the immediate effects of the flag. (Though I'm guessing Johnny Consumer will be ticked off when he learns that the $500 video player he bought in 2005 won't play a recording Aunt Betty made with a DTV receiver she bought in 2006.) More important for the long run, however, will be the flag's effect on innovation in video software and hardware. To build a legal device to interoperate with the broadcast flag will require it to be "untamperable." That rules out any technological innovation that requires tinkering or experimenting with an existing apparatus. In particular, it rules out open source software such as GNU Radio, because open source projects *require* others to be able to tinker with them. Do we really need another market where open source developers are told they can't compete because it would it would wreck the business plans of entrenched commercial interests?

    http://bpdg.blogs.eff.org/archives/000148.html
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/3065992

    While analog recording devices are not constrained by the broadcast flag, the MPAA has been trying other schemes to "plug the analog hole." A particularly ludicrous proposal, documented in the MPAA's "Content Protection Status Report" filed in the US Senate in 2002 and echoed by two TV execs at last week's DVB World, calls for embedding anti-copy chips into every analog-to-digital converter manufactured. As you probably know better than I, those wee little converters are everywhere--in digital scanners and camcorders, but also in thermometers, seismographs, computer mice, mobile phones, and light-meters. That Hollywood would presume to constrain technological development in everything from health care to scientific research testifies to its fanatic obsession with controlling technologies that are incompatible with its business model.

    http://bpdg.blogs.eff.org/archives/000113.html

    >The broadcast flag system *will* prevent large scale redistribution,
    >i.e. massive piracy.

    But will it? Many observers have noted that the broadcast flag's DRM has all the toughness of a wet paper bag. It's just unencrypted bits in a stream, and the spec is publicly and lawfully accessible. The MPAA even sidestepped the question of effectiveness in their official FAQ. The ease with which it can be subverted makes me worry that its introduction will spur illegal reuses of digital TV while locking out legal ones.

    http://www.mpaa.org/Press/Broadcast_Flag_QA.htm

    By the way, you don't need to be a Bram Cohen to get around this DRM. Sure, you won't find a flag-free player manufactured after this July. But if you're keen on committing massive copyright infringement, just plunk down $150 for a tuner card before the deadline. Then you can spew pirated Alias episodes afterward to your heart's content.

    >The ability to quickly create improvised collaborative groups was
    >recognized as being among the highest application priorities in the
    >earliest pre-planning of Internet2. Application level efforts such
    >as the Internet2 Commons, VRVS, and indeed the very Access Grid
    >technology that MARCEL depends on, are some of the fruit of this
    >early vision.

    I'm glad to hear you think there's plenty of room on Internet2 for pickup collaborations outside of the broadcast model. Knowing you, you've probably participated in some interesting events on Internet2. So forgive me if the consortium's public face--which I've seen in Ann Doyle's presentations and Internet2 Web sites--doesn't reinforce the vision of open and improvisatory collaboration described above. Some of the networked performances I've seen associated with Internet2 sound innovative, but they take for granted a clear distinction between performers and audience. Likewise, I want to be part of the Internet2 Commons--but not if I have to shell out a couple grand to join it. And an Open Student Network is a great idea, but not if the end result is a television channel for Connie Chungs-in-training.

    But as you suggest, much of the problem may lie with the choreographers rather than with the engineers. Perhaps if MARCEL and Internet2 folks brainstormed together, they might come up with less hierarchic models of high-bandwidth culture.

    >Router level digital rights
    >management is not being considered by any of the internet standards
    >bodies. It's not even over the horizon.

    That's good to hear, and you're in a much better position than I to know what Internet2 chieftains are contemplating. I suppose my concern is less with what Internet2 is now than with what it could easily become if the MPAA starts getting its claws into it.

    You see, I don't know how to square your reassurances with the comments by MPAA and Internet2 VPs in the News.com story I posted earlier. When Chris Russell talks about working with Internet2 to "manage illegitimate content," how is he going to do that without sniffers inside the network that tell him what's being traded or who fed it into Internet2?

    Today, you and I can plug off-the-shelf PowerBooks into Ethernet cables at our university offices and communicate via Internet2 without Hollywood's blessing. I was optimistic that this privilege might someday belong to a much wider cross-section of people. But now the pessimist in me is thinking that even spoiled academics like us may be denied that freedom if the MPAA gets its way. As the folks at Public Knowledge commented in regard to the FCC's "Plug and Play" proceeding:

    "One of the key issues in this proceeding is the extent to which content companies and content-delivery services can leverage the Commission's goals of promoting digital television, cable compatibility, and competition in the navigation-device market into sweeping regulations whose principal effect is not to serve these goals, or even to prevent piracy of digital television. Instead, the real purpose of these proposals is to restore to content companies, to the extent possible, the degree of control over video they exercised prior to the invention of the videocassette recorder."

    http://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/plugandplay

    I hope that folks like you with some influence in the consortium will take this threat seriously enough to be mindful of it. Thanks for helping to air this debate in public.

    >And I personally look forward to working further with both!

    I'd love to start a working group on Internet2/Access Grid devoted to questions of access and control. As long as admission is free :)

    jon
  • Plasma Studii | Thu Mar 17th 2005 9:13 a.m.
    >Jack Valenti isn't really interested in letting you freely record
    >digital TV with your current DVD burner, email a clip from a
    >President's press conference to your mom, or create a
    >high-definition video installation based on an archive of short TV
    >clips.

    am i just misunderstanding here? these are all things that work
    pretty effortlessly on osX.
    i've swiped clips from commercial DVDs. or tv has RCA video out
    (some even have s-video). or coaxial-usb/osX converters for
    cable/antennae.
    makes life much more convenient to use a software utility for making
    QT screenshot movies.
    (there are a few, here's one i like) http://www.ambrosiasw.com
    --

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    PLASMA STUDII
    art non-profit
    stages * galleries * the web
    PO Box 1086
    Cathedral Station
    New York, USA

    (on-line press kit)
    http://plasmastudii.org
  • Philip Galanter | Mon Mar 21st 2005 10:42 a.m.
    Thanks back to you Jon for furthering the discussion of some of the
    tough issues raised by the new networked communication technologies.

    To be clear, my intent in my first response was to address the
    question posed in the subject line. That is, I wanted to make the
    point that Internet2 is not orchestrating the end of the internet,
    and that in fact they are extending and enhancing the very virtues
    that you and many others hold to be valuable. I tried to do this by
    correcting a number of technical misunderstandings that seemed to
    indict Internet2 as a villain, when in fact the opposite is the case.

    So I hope it won't be too disappointing if I don't respond to your
    second post in a point by point manner. It seems to me that most of
    the concern there is really more about the MPAA and the broadcast
    flag than Internet2.

    Internet2 is indeed talking to the MPAA, but they are talking to
    literally hundreds of organizations and interest groups. Some of
    those groups hold opposing views and differing visions of the future.
    It is in everyone's interest that Internet2 provide a forum for as
    broad a discussion of advanced networks as possible.

    And I don't want to be put in the position of defending the broadcast
    flag. I can see issues and interests on both sides, and find myself
    somewhere in the middle. But I'll toss in a few thoughts
    nevertheless.

    First, it's important to remember that more than one market force is
    at play here. Yes the MPAA (and RIAA) wants to protect the property
    rights of those who create and market media. But the consumer
    electronics industry doesn't want to see the end of home recording.
    The carrier companies (cable, satellite, ISPs, etc) don't either.
    And consumer groups still have a voice. (And so does our
    democratically elected government.)

    I'm convinced that when all is said and done the typical consumer
    will still be able to record at home for all the fair use reasons
    currently available to them. The MPAA has said that even they want
    home recording to be preserved. Will there be transitional problems?
    Will old equipment become obsolete? Sure...as always. Ask anyone
    who went with Beta rather than VHS. Or audiophiles who thought the
    Elcassette would lead them to sonic nirvana. Such is the nature of
    progress.

    Next, regarding hackers and the ability to innovate and experiment
    with broadcast media. The broadcast flag, to my best understanding,
    has to allow for not only hardware recording devices, but also
    computers used as home entertainment centers. Can you imagine
    Microsoft not demanding this? And to keep the competition fair third
    party software vendors will have to have some way to create products
    as well.

    As a programmer what this says to me is that operating systems will
    have to provide a software layer that will allow
    playing/recording/skipping/looping video media while preventing (or
    attempting to prevent) massive piracy. Those software hooks will
    have to be available to any programmer...even kids and
    hackers...because ultimately they will be impossible to hide anyway.

    Perhaps someone else will come up with an example, but under such a
    scenario I can't imagine functionality that is short of piracy and
    yet unavailable to random programmers. I'll admit that there is some
    speculation in the above...but this is all a work-in-progress and
    there is speculation on all sides...even on the EFF site.

    Getting back to Internet2. A few quick points.

    "Pick-up collaboration" on Internet2 is indeed live and well. But
    guess what? Artists didn't invent it. Scientists are leading the
    way there. They are also the ones who invented the World Wide Web.
    Nevertheless, both are available to artists as open platforms for
    creativity. Have at it!

    And yes, the Internet2 Commons has a fee attached to it, but you have
    to understand what you are getting. Standard videoconferencing (with
    Polycoms and Tandbergs and so on) is limited to 3 or 4 sites at a
    time. If you want to include, say, a dozen locations you need a
    device called an MCU. Along with the MCU hardware cost there are
    also maintenance costs and administrative hassles. For many schools
    buying and supporting their own MCU's is prohibitively expensive.
    And contracting for external MCU services is really expensive too.

    For many schools the Internet2 Commons provides very useful
    functionality. Rather than tax every Internet2 member they decided
    to fund the effort by only charging the schools that want to use it.
    Compared to the commercial alternatives the I2 Commons fees are a
    really good deal.

    There are, of course, other ways to videoconference. iChat on the
    Mac is cool...as long as everyone else is using a Mac and you only
    need to connect to a couple other people. The Access Grid is great,
    but it requires multicast (perhaps via a unicast gateway) and isn't
    exactly plug and play or commonly used.

    For connecting random sites nothing is as ubiquitous as good old
    H.323 and H.320. Check out last years megaconference. *372* sites
    on every continent but Antarctica connected via video and voice.

    http://www.megaconference.org/

    Regarding putting low level DRM into routers. All I can suggest is
    looking into what it would really take to get such a protocol, or
    *any* new extension, into IPv6. At most Internet2 could sponsor a
    proposal...not that I think they ever would. And then there would be
    an *international* standards process to contend with. I don't care
    what the MPAA may or may not want...it just ain't going to happen.

    Finally, regarding the better documented Internet2 performing arts
    events. You have to remember that many of these events are designed
    for a certain kind of setting. More often than not the setting is a
    large conference for an audience of several hundred university
    technicians and administrators. Such a setting invites a rather
    standard "concert" type presentation...and comfortable mainstream
    content.

    But this is hardly built into the network!

    And the master class thing may not be your cup of tea, but in large
    parts of the country distance education, and access to the talented
    people that tend to migrate to urban centers like NYC, is a
    significant breakthrough.

    There are all kinds of other options waiting to be explored. Way
    back in 1999 NYU's first use of Internet2 involved small
    performances, intimate improvisations, and other artistic "pick up"
    experiments with theater students at MIT. More recently NYU
    Professor and performance artist Barbara Rose Haum did a very nice
    piece with collaborators at the University of Kansas.

    Personally, when it comes to MARCEL I am less interested in more
    academic theory. What I'd love to see MARCEL spawn is more actual
    art. And I am sure that as soon as an Alan Kaprow for the network
    age wants to reinvent what we mean by "art" and "performance"
    Internet2 will be there for them.

    Phil
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