G2P: Who will the RIAA sue over this?

While many people are rightly watching MySpace’s plan to to sell music from unsigned artists directly to consumers, they may be overlooking another challenge to the major labels: G2P

What? Never heard of G2P? You will. It is a form of "Google Hacking" used to locate MP3s on various systems left open to the internet. The initial site is G2P.org (http://g2p.org/), which launched early this Summer.

The coding isn’t terribly complex, and we should expect other sites could follow. How hard would it be to set up the same hack for video:  Windows Meida Player (.WMP) or Quicktime (.MOV)?

The G2P hack’s author describes is as follows:

"Think of P2P file sharing, except Google is one of those people. Using some very special searches, we are able to search for specific files (and file types) using Google. We have covered most of the searches this in the previous article Google Hacking. What G2P is currently tuned to find is MP3s, eBooks, and gives the ability to use Google as a Proxy. These searches alone are nothing secret, but G2P puts them easy to use (and remember) interface."

G2p_1So far, knowledge of G2P has been limited to only a few geek enthusiast sites: iHacked, Digg, P2P webblog, Binary Revolution. Given that colleges are now back in session, I susupect that we will see a rise in G2P activity over the next few months. 

What about the legality of this? Any IT professional will tell you how much "private" data, files, passwords, and information people accidentally leave exposed to the world. "Always on" broadband has many people not realizing how much they are incidentally revealing to the world.

G2P takes advantage of that, as well as the Google-bot spidering of servers. According to the Peer-to-Peer Weblog, the G2P hack "uses a default behavior of the Apache webserver to identify pages that have been indexed in Google containing the standard Apache boilerplate that is generated when a published directory has no index file."

Its hard to see how anything left in a public space where it could be easily found and copied is illegal. And, since G2P is not limited to searching only copyrighted media, it has "substantial non-infringing uses."  That’s the key legal test from the Sony VCR decsion, to the more recent Grokster case.

Given all the music on the net legally placed their by artists who are looking for exposure and buzz — the entire success of MySpace is essentially one giant non-infringing use — its apparent this will pass the test that Grokster failed.

Even if it turns out that there is some technical crime committed — something I highly doubt at this moment — good luck prosecuting it. Google does a few gazillion searches a week, and if Justice Department Porn freaks couldn’t demand to see their logs, I doubt any broad fishing expedition from the RIAA will be tolerated. "Um, can you give us all the searches done with the phrase "MP3" in it, right away? Thanks."   


There are two morals to this: First, the major label business model of selling polycarbonate discs — as opposed to marketing Music — remains dubious at best. As Jeff Howe noted in Wired earlier this month:

"The music industry is suffering. The major record labels – which rely on CDs for most of their revenue – are in decline. CD sales in the US have dropped more than 20 percent from a peak of $13.4 billion in 2000.

But don’t be fooled: The market for music is thriving. With the rise of peer-to-peer networks, the iPod, and other digital technologies – plus a 100 percent jump in concert ticket sales since 1999 – the world is awash in music. The industry now has more sources of revenue – ringtones, concert tickets, license agreements with TV shows and videogames – than ever before."

The 2nd moral is even simpler:  Don’t leave your personal diary on the luncheonette counter when you leave . . .


MySpace to sell music from nearly 3 million bands

Yinka Adegoke
Sun Sep 3, 12:20 PM ET

G2P : Finding Mp3s Using Google
Posted Jun 19th 2006 11:09AM by Grant Robertson

MySpace butts into iTunes’ turf
Jefferson Graham
USA TODAY, 9/6/2006 1:24 AM ET

No Suit Required
Jeff Howe
Wired, Issue 14.09 – September 2006

The Infinite Album 
Issue 14.09 – September 2006   

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Craig H commented on Sep 6

    You don’t even need G2P. It’s easy enough to make a Quicksearch for IE or Firefox that passes the same parameters to Google.

    Would it be bad netiquette if I posted the URL here?

  2. jkw commented on Sep 6

    It is possible that the record companies will convince Google that this is illegal and get them to block the searches. The major weakness in the method seems to be that it relies on Google continuing to allow these searches.

    If Google continues to allow this, the record comapnies can still hit them with hundreds of DMCA takedown orders every day. Which might be enough of a hassle to cause Google to reconsider stopping the searches.

    If this is stopped, the next stage would probably to have distributed spidering of the net to get the same results, but with no central player that can be removed from the system.

  3. cm commented on Sep 6

    I don’t know what the law has to say about whether removal of (accidentally) unsecured or misplaced property from outside marked private territory is a theft. Where I’m coming from, it was considered good form to return found property to the owner if identifiable (e.g. you saw who dropped it, or it is a wallet with ID), and to warn people that their wallet is about to slip out of their pocket, or they just dropped something.

    On the internet, for one thing that’s difficult, and copying is not theft. There could be the matter of it supposedly being “generally known” that specific content is copyrighted, even if individual MP3 files are not marked with copyright notices. Same thing with other protections, e.g. of confidential data. What about when in the physical world you find a letter on the street, open it, read it, and put it back? After all, you didn’t steal it. What if somebody else already opened it, or the envelope is not glued shut? That should come close to a Google listing, except for the active search part.

    This is in a sense a digital dumpster dive. Or trolling the streets looking for lost items to snatch.

  4. Jim Bergsten commented on Sep 6

    Sorry to sound like a (warning: terrible pun follows) broken record, but the business record companies are in is fashion trendsetting, not music.

    They’d be better served by giving the music away and putting their efforts into promoting the next dopey teen heartthrob/hottie.

    This is something they once knew (remember radio stations and MTV?) but have forgotten in their greedy quest for money for nothing.

    This is what happens when one puts accountants, MBA’s, and attorneys in charge of a botique industry.

    Oh, did I forget to mention, the web is doomed?

  5. Lawyer commented on Sep 6

    Sorry to interrupt your morning, but the act of copying a copyrighted work is, in and of itself, an infringing action under the Copyright Act, with certain limited exceptions, most notably fair use. Hard to see how this falls within fair use. Now, this applies to the users rather than to the software per se. But Grokster basically held that if you know that your software is used largely for infringing purposes, then you (the software owner) can be held liable for contributory infringement. That your software may have substantial non-infringing uses is irrelevant.

    Further, the Sony case is poorly reasoned and applies the wrong standard (not that I disagree with its result, only with its method of reaching it). The SC missed an opportunity to fix that error in Grokster, but at least moved in the right direction. There will yet be another opportunity, I am sure.

  6. Barry Ritholtz commented on Sep 6

    There are a few issues here:

    Will Google change their search highly successful search methodology to satisfy the RIAA? (I highly doubt it)

    Is it illegal — as in criminal? (Doubtful)

    Is it infringing (perhaps)

    Will I be caught? (highly doubtful)

  7. fatbear commented on Sep 6

    It doesn’t read to me as though BR is saying copying copyrighted work is OK – seems to me he’s saying that G2P may make it past Grokster – especially so if it finds its way into academic search for items other than copyrighted files, or at least to the point that mr average college user can claim that the finding of copyrighted material is only ancillary (i.e., if he uses it to find a WW2 speech with the words “goodbye her kiss GI” then finding Steam’s “Kiss Her Goodbye” is purely serendipitous – and remember college students have nothing but time).

  8. Jim Bergsten commented on Sep 6

    “Used largely for infringing purposes” is in interesting phrase. How much is “largely”?

    Could one interpret this to include the entire communications infrastructure? The wires, the fiber, the hubs, the data caches, the power, the physical pipes, the whole thing?

    Told you the web is doomed. Thanks, “lawyer” for explaining why.

  9. pmc commented on Sep 6

    How can this not be considered stealing? Don’t the record companies sell the music? The CD or MP3 file is just the medium of delivery.
    If my neighbor accidentally left a bunch of CD’s on the sidewalk in front of their home and I take them, bring them home and entertain myself with what is encoded on them – I am stealing from my neighbor and I am stealing from the record companies. No?

  10. kevin_r commented on Sep 6

    If even a hedgefund manager like Barry, who grew up buying CDs (and vinyl records?) has so little sympathy for the recorded music industry as currently constituted, the generation growing up with ubiqitous copying among friends and downloading has even less.
    Intellectual property can only be protected if it is seen as legitimate by people in general. Whether fairly or not, the claims of the recorded music are not seen as legitimate by the younger generations.

    If I were the movie industry, I would move now to separate myself from the recorded music industry. I think the movie industry still has legitimacy in people’s eyes, but they could lose it if they are seen to be associated with the draconian maneuvers of the already delegitimized music industry.

  11. M.Z. Forrest commented on Sep 6

    It all depends on if common carrier laws get applied to technology. A common carrier is required by law to take reasonable care that they to do not enable or futher illegal activity. For example, a trucking firm can be held negligent if their vehicles are used to transport recreational drugs. The trucker could not use the defense that he is impartial to what he transports. (He could claim that there was misrepresentation however.)

    In the Internet questions, we are not even dealing with a case of misrepresentation. I would expect the laws to come around to treating the Internet similarly.

  12. Jim Bergsten commented on Sep 6

    OK (this is getting to be fun). Is “air” a common carrier? Can I be liable for communications that pass through my property?

    You attorneys out there, say after me:

    “More billable hours!!”

  13. M.Z. Forrest commented on Sep 6

    Common carrier applies to individuals not objects. An individual can either be a corporate individual or an actual person. It is not near as complex as one makes it out to be. It is a pain in the butt though. I am not a lawyer however. I’m only speaking from experience dealing in an industry with common carrier regulations and being highly fluent in technology.

    In some areas of the Internet, this is obvious. ISPs are quite willing to shut down IP addresses leased from them that host child p***rn. That is an easy case however where the ISPs are not going to try and assert rights regarding with whom they do business.

  14. Smokefoot commented on Sep 6

    There must be a practicality limit to common carrier. It is not practical for Google to take it’s database and try to split the infringing from the non-infringing content.

  15. Eclectic commented on Sep 6

    Mindlessly boring… boring, boring, boring.

    It’s like it’s a bad episode of the “Twilight Zone,” or it’s the 8,000th playing of “Groundhog Day,” and you’ve got Gillian-Beret and can’t get up and turn it off.
    God, give me s-tre-ength!
    Say?… anybody got any ideas on how all the subs in the ‘ISM non-manufacturing’ could be so negative and the core index still rise?

  16. diva commented on Sep 6

    The above is a good start on capturing the complexity of the situation.
    Reminds me of a fave concept: a disco ball = each little piece of glass reflected one little piece of the truth

    ….another 250 differing views….. and readers can start to ‘get the picture’

  17. Jim D commented on Sep 7

    ==== Its hard to see how anything left in
    ==== a public space where it could be easily
    ==== found and copied is illegal.

    Sorry, can’t see that argument working too well in court. Putting stuff on a website is publishing, and that’s been pretty well established a this point (though the “I didn’t mean it” defense hasn’t been fully explored).

    And unlike Peer based networks, stuff you leave on a public webserver will be trival to trace to you.

    This lasts until the first lawsuit, then it’s over.

  18. Craig H commented on Sep 13

    I’ve received a couple of email requests for how to make a browser Quicksearch for MP3’s, so here are the instructions for Firefox:

    Create a Quicksearch bookmark. For the keyword use “mp3” without the quotes (but you can use whatever keyword you like).

    Use the following URL for the location:

    To do a search for Jimi Hendrix you’d type in the address bar: mp3 jimi hendrix

    The URL duplicates what G2P sends Google, the “+%s” is a wildcard that puts your search term into the string.

    Have fun.

  19. Vidal commented on Apr 11

    I’ve made a special search engine for this! It’s called Search Hacker. You can easily find MP3 files and many other file type formats like: mpg, avi, mov, wmv, 3gp, webcams, torrents, wav, mid, avi,…you name it!
    Have a try.

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