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THE MORNING BUZZ: What's in a Name?

4 Nov, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

As fans anxiously await the theatrical debut of the second installment in the ‘Lord of the Rings' trilogy, The Two Towers, Dec. 18, sure enough the title showed up on the file-trading circuit more than a month before its debut.

A friend who shall remain nameless frequently checks file-trading sites for me and came across this title over the weekend. But appearances are deceiving.

Since file names on such sites often aren't what they seem, my friend checks the accuracy of the moniker by doing a “search for alternates.” This step helps determine the accuracy of the file title by showing other titles with the same digital identifier. What came up was a collection of music, what looked like an Italian version of Two Towers, what looked like porn films, as well as files named Spider-Man, Men in Black II and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Had my friend taken the time (most likely more than eight hours) to download the file named The Two Towers, most likely he would have gotten no such thing. Who knows what he would have gotten. It could have been the Italian version of Two Towers, Spider-Man, some other movie or music file or a porn title I can't publish here.

Internet geek-types call this “spoofing.” And this practice of purposefully planting misnamed shill files can cause headaches for the file-sharing community. It works on the law of diminishing returns: The more junk that is mixed in the peer-to-peer network brew, the more determined a file-trader has to be -- and the more time he or she has to spend -- to sift out what he or she wants. To some, it's a game they are willing to play, but my bet is most consumers aren't willing to waste their time, especially to obtain video files, which take many more hours to download than do music files.

While record labels and studios fight to strengthen legislation, the most effective defense may be to beat the traders at their own game. No one will be able to stop the most determined sharers, but the average consumer will likely skip the headache and buy the copyrighted movie through legitimate means.

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