Metadatasharing: The Wave of the Future?

So, forgive me if this is an old idea, but I’m not really a big geek where file-sharing technology is concerned. However, I did have a cunning idea…

So, rightly or wrongly, in a large portion of the world, it’s illegal to copy and share copyrighted works, be they music or video or whatever. However, I wonder just how legally defensible the sharing of metadata is?

Where I’m going is this: Something like the Parchive format of forward-error-correction parity files could be used for file-sharing. By using a program like Quickpar, you can create “parity files” which contain – and I simplify here – hashes and other metadata that allow you to recreate the original file or files – bit-perfect, of course – without actually having any part of them.

(There’s a PAR program for Macs here, incidentally.)

Normally, PAR files are used in Usenet binary newsgroups, to help prevent (or at least repair) incomplete downloads. I personally think they should be used in Bittorrent circles, too – they could be used to fix the whole “argh, there are no seeds, and everyone’s stuck at 99.9%” problem that seems to crop up a lot.

But what if we took it one step further – rather than sharing, say, the latest episode of Mythbusters, plus ten percent additional PAR files… why not just share PAR files that contain enough blocks to successfully recreate the entire episode file from scratch? I’ve tested this, and it works quite perfectly. You wind up sharing a chunk of (meta)data that’s maybe five percent larger than the “real” data you’re interested in, but – and I really can’t emphasize this enough – you’re never actually transferring the copyrighted material… just newly-created data about it.


Published in: Geekiness, General | on June 29th, 2009| 3 Comments »

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  1. On 6/29/2009 at 5:01 pm Nemo Said:

    If you’d like to see a demonstration of this, you can download this 29MB zip file, which when extracted will give you eight PAR2 files. Those eight files contain not a single second of the original MP3 file, but when opened with with QuickPar or MacPar or whatever will allow you to recreate the file in its entirety in a matter of moments.

    It’s like magic, only more useful.

  2. On 6/30/2009 at 4:55 am Vlad Bespalov Said:

    I`m not a lawyer, but i think this can be described as “derivative work”. 😎
    Or (more realistically) treated as a kind of multivolume archive – there we also share “metadata”, not straight bits (think of a RAR archive that has >100% recovery info and data is deliberately broken or tampered with or replaced by zeroes).

    Otherwise – great idea.
    (went out to read some more about this kind of containers)

  3. On 7/1/2009 at 1:53 am Anton Pavlovetsky Said:

    A beautiful idea.