DC++ is done

File-sharing service comes to an end

The once-popular campus file-sharing service QueensDC pulled the plug Monday after nearly a decade of student-run operation.

Announced on the group’s website last week, administrators ‘AlexiStukov’ and ‘pR0Ps’ cited “dwindling userbase and growing legal pressure” among the factors for their decision.

The service once boasted over 500 regular users, but after a “gradual but substantial decline” year-to-year, it receded below 50.

“Over time, as internet speeds have increased, the speed difference between internal DC transfers and external transfers has dropped,” AlexiStukov and pR0Ps told the Journal via email. “DC clients are more finicky than clients of other technologies.” Using the widely-available DC++ software, students established a peer-to-peer (p2p) hub in 2003, allowing users to quickly and directly share files across the campus network.

Since then, various student users operating under their hub aliases have modified and improved the mechanics of the system voluntarily despite the inherent risks. “It was an easy decision,” pR0PS posted on a reddit.com thread.

“In order for a DC network to exist now, it has to be run completely anonymously (which is impossible in its current state) and without a single point of failure … With a peak of only about 50 users and bill C-11 out in the wild, the risk vs. reward just isn’t there.” In addition to the monetary costs of hardware, domain and Internet service provider fees, there’s a risk of legal repercussions for those who maintain and develop a service that potentially facilitates illegal sharing.

But QueensDC has never recieved any direct complaints during AlexiStukov and pR0Ps tenure, they claim, likely due to the security features and protective levels of anonymity embedded in the system.

Under Bill C-11, anyone operating a file sharing service, hub or “digital network” may be legally culpable if copyright infringement occurs over the connection they provide or facilitate.

“The law is new and we don’t know how it will be used or interpreted in court yet,” Queen’s copyright expert Mark Swartz told the Journal via email, “but [Section 27] is specifically designed to deal with sites that enable file sharing, so I would guess that any individuals providing those types of services are now at much higher risk for a lawsuit.”

A 2011 Journal article states that Queen’s lodged an average of eight complaints a day from film companies regarding illegal file sharing on the University’s server.

In the same article, ITServices reported that no attempts had been made to shut down the program. They declined to comment on the current situation.

While Judicial Affairs Director Benjamin Burger couldn’t comment on whether a non-academic discipline (NAD) case has or has not been brought forward due to confidentiality, he said there’s certainly a risk of NAD punishment beyond formal criminal charges in a potential case of student involvement.

Queen’s professor Laura Murray of the department of English said the damages associated with copyright infringement are greater for services that store content on their servers, as opposed to those who simply enable the sharing of files.

Murray, whose research interests include copyright law, said the cost of legal fees associated with copyright infringement can be more “scary” than the actual damages.

“The legal fees are huge. Copyright lawyers cost four or five hundred dollars an hour,” she said.

While AlexiStukov and pR0Ps have abandoned the project with no apparent heirs, they advocate a decentralized successor, called Advanced Direct Connect, acknowledging the flaws of the QueensDC retiree.

“This allows a community to exist by itself, free of a central point of failure. An open-source project called Dtella (currently in use at Cambridge University) implements such a distributed network, and can be modified for use on any campus.”



All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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