Legal Video Service Unplugged By Anti-Piracy Group

Revision3 — which makes and distributes online videos like “Diggnation” — was down for the long weekend. But that’s not news; online services go down all the time. (Ahem: Twitter.) So why does this one matter? Because the legal video service was taken down by an anti-piracy group after the group was caught using Revision3’s servers without permission.

Revision3’s CEO Jim Louderback said in a lengthy blog post that after the company investigated the outage, they found that their servers were overloaded by MediaDefender, an anti-piracy group that in the past had been supported by the RIAA and the MPAA.

How did it happen? Warning: Geeky details ahead.

Apparently MediaDefender has made a practice of disrupting peer-to-peer services using “denial of service” attacks,” which overload services with fake traffic to make them unavailable to users.

To distribute its DRM-free videos, Revision3 uses BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer file sharing software. Because it’s peer-to-peer, Revision3 has a “tracking server” that monitors transfers. After the company changed the configuration of that tracking server in April, it inadvertently opened up a “backdoor” loophole that MediaDefender exploited to host its own tracking files. (These files point to fake versions of pirated content on the Web that MediaDefender uses to make it harder for users to find the real thing.)

Revision3 noticed some strange activity on their tracking server and shut down the backdoor. At this point, MediaDefender’s servers started pinging Revision3’s with notifications — 8,000 per second — and the volume shut Revision3’s whole server setup down.

Jim Louderback doesn’t believe that the move was malicious; he figures it was just an automated server response. But “once they noticed that our tracking server was open, they should have picked up the phone and called us,” he tells us by phone. “They couldn’t conceive of the fact that somebody would use torrents legitimately to distribute media.”

Jim said that he’s talked to the FBI, but that his gut feeling is that nothing will come of it. The immediate inconvenience: Some of Revision3’s most popular services are released on Fridays, and users weren’t able to download them until Tuesday afternoon.

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