Saturday, March 31, 2007

Anti-plagiarism software company sued

(via Burkhard Schäfer) Students in Arizona have sued Turnitin, the makers of plagiarism-detection software. They claim that the company violates their copyright because the papers are kept in a database. Students could get $600,000 USD from the suit if they are successful.

I'm having real problem seeing how a student could claim that their work is being infringed in any way by being hosted in a database to which there is no access. It's not like the essays involved, "Ancient Greek Contributions," "What Lies Beyond the Horizon," "Under a Pear Tree," and "Day is Weary" will ever see the light of day in any commercial way.

I'm also surprised that the students are not made to sign a licence when they submit their papers.

Friday, March 30, 2007

GPL v3 v3

(via House of Commons and Groklaw) The third draft of the GPL version 3 is now available for comment. I haven't had much time to go through it in detail, so I will be making comments later, mostly building on previous praises and criticisms here, here and here.

However, one thing I noticed straight away is that there has been one significant change to the anti TPM clause. Version 2 of the draft used to read:

"No covered work constitutes part of an effective technological “protection” measure under section 1201 of Title 17 of the United States Code."
The new draft reads:
"No covered work shall be deemed part of an effective technological measure under any applicable law fulfilling obligations under article 11 of the WIPO copyright treaty adopted on 20 December 1996, or similar laws prohibiting or restricting circumvention of such measures."
I'm very happy about this change because I commented on previous drafts that:
"This makes it evident that what the paragraph is covering is the legal definition of "technical protection measure" found in international treaties and national legislation. Specifically, section 1201 of the U.S. Code is the DMCA anti-circumvention measures provision. This is useful, but if the licence wants to be really international, why not mention the WIPO Copyright Treaty instead?"
Is somebody actually reading my blog?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Criminality of death threats online

Everyone is talking about Kathy Sierra's blog death threats. I don't feel like I can comment a lot as I have never before read her blog or heard about her before I read the news coverage, but this seems to have an interesting cyberlaw angle. If Kathy Sierra has been the subject of death threats, should this be treated in any way different to other types of death threats?

To answer my own question, I don't think that there's anything in principle that would compel us to view online threats differently to other types of threats. However, it may be important to consider that anonymity and distance may actually play a big role in the preponderance of abusive behaviour in cyberspace. There's the famous equation that anonymity may breed trollish behaviour online, and that normal people will become monsters when writing behind a keyboard. The perception of anonymity may prompt some people to do something stupid, like sending death threats. There is also a disconnection with the subject. People may not be real people, they are names, avatars, bits of information in the ether.

However, should this be excuse enough to treat online threats differently? Discuss.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I'm in Brussels for a workshop of a European project on creating an E-Infrastructure for E-Science Digital Repositories. We are discussing legal and economic aspects of digital repositories.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Defining YouTube culture in one OKGo

Copyfight has a good post about the OKGo phenomenon. OKGo, for those who don't know, is a band from Chicago that could be largely classed as alternative, but it may well be part of the new geek rock. What makes OKGo unique is that they're a Web 2.0 band, having embraced YouTube and the YouTube generation. This geek-savy has catapulted the band to geek fame and they're officially an online phenomenon, perhaps achieving similar iconic status as the I Love You guy, All Your Base Are Belong To Us, and the Numa Numa dance. OKGo's brilliant videos are a definition of the Web 2.0 do-it-yourself ethos. The videos are freely available online in YouTube, such as the wonderful Here it Goes Again, and my favourite, Million Ways.

The videos have spawned hundreds of fan interpretations of their favourite band. After all, nothing much is needed to replicate this, only four people with lack of self-consciousness and a video-recording device. Upload it to YouTube and you have a bona-fide Internet phenomenon. Look at the first version and the second of the fans interpreting the Million Ways choreography.

Perhaps I'm dazzled by the hype, but to me there is something deep happening here that goes beyond geeky teenagers embracing a fad. While this may have many interesting implications to media, new media, free culture and how we view our content, phenomena like the OKGo videos exemplify why I believe strongly that Viacom has made a mistake by suing YouTube and Google. Viacom made handsome profits from two shows that are a success because of YouTube: The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. There is considerable danger for Viacom that these two products will become tainted by the suit, and loose their edge and "coolness" factor. Viacom are like Metallica during the Napster trial. Metallica may have been right in legal terms, but they became associated with the establishment, lost their edge, and have not recovered since.

Whatever one may think about the legal arguments in Viacom v Google, there is the true danger that a Web 2.0 revolution against the media conglomerate could spell disaster for them. I smell a settlement somewhere.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pirates complain about P2P

This is an excellent read from TorrentFreak. They interview a real pirate, one of those people who makes physical copies of copyright content and sells it in marketplaces, car-boots or pubs. Tony, a physical pirate, complains that P2P has stolen their sales, and they have had to close down some of their factories because people will get their bootlegs online.

We need more headlines like "P2P fights piracy!" or the such.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

P2P in the news

This is yet another well-informed technology article from The Guardian on P2P, IP and downloads. I often complain about journalistic inaccuracies, but praise where it's due, sometimes they get it right.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Virtual communities and IP

The Beeb runs a story on a new report by research consultants Screen Digest on the Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMOG) market. The big headline in the report is that the MMOG market has now passed the $1 billion USD revenue mark from subscriptions worldwide. While big revenue is to be expected from the North American and Asian markets, I was surprised to learn that the European subscription revenue goes up to $299 million USD (€224 million EUR, or $309 million Panamanian Balboas).

I was also surprised by the top five earners list. While World of Warcraft still sits at the top ($471 million USD), its next competitor was a little Java-based game called Runescape. The top five list is:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. RuneScape
  3. Final Fantasy Online
  4. Everquest
  5. City of Heroes/Villains
While the growing revenue figures are interesting, the relevance to technology law is hidden within the report. One would expect that in the new market, product tie-ins between gaming and other established media should be doing well. Licensing intellectual property from movies, comics and books should amount for a considerable chunk of this vibrant market. However, the surprising aspect of the report is that cross-over IP licensed content is proving to be unpopular, and gamers choose worlds without any interaction with pre-existing property. World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Everquest and RuneScape far outsell licensed games such as Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online (and if the reviews are anything to go by, the same will happen with LOTR Online). In fact, revenues for licensed games is only 4%, while specially designed content amounts for 96% of the market.

This is quite an interesting phenomenon. Gamers seem to prefer virtual worlds that are well designed and offer variability and game-play, instead of wanting to play licensed content. There may be a lesson to be learned here, but my caffeine-stripped mind cannot make it out this early.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The dangerous and wild Internet

Security firm Symantec has released it's 11th Internet Security Threat Report, and if accurate (no reason to doubt that it is), it makes for some very grim reading indeed. I have taken some key findings from the summary which warrant highlighting:

  • Symantec recorded an average of 5,213 denial of service (DoS) attacks per day, down from 6,110 in the first half of the year.
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer was targeted by 77 percent of all attacks specifically targeting Web browsers.
  • Symantec observed an average of 63,912 active bot-infected computers per day, an 11 percent increase from the previous period.
  • China had 26 percent of the world’s bot-infected computers, more than any other country.
  • Israel was the highest ranked country for malicious activity per Internet user, followed by Taiwan and Poland.
  • Seventy-eight percent of malicious code that propagated did so over SMTP, making it the most commonly used propagation mechanism.
  • Malicious code using peer-to-peer to propagate rose from 23 percent of all propagating malicious code in the first six months of 2006 to 29 percent in the last half of the year.
  • The Symantec Probe Network detected a total of 166,248 unique phishing messages, a six percent increase over the first six months of 2006. This equates to an average of 904 unique phishing messages per day for the second half of 2006.
  • Between July 1 and December 31, 2006, spam made up 59 percent of all monitored email traffic. This is an increase over the first six months of 2006 when 54 percent of email was classified as spam.
These are worrying figures indeed, but they serve to make the case that the Internet is becoming a huge financial and security threat. To me the most worrying data from the report has to do with the volume of spam, and with the amount of zombie computers online. When more than half of the world's email is spam, and when most viruses spread this way, you know that there is a serious problem and that something needs to be done. So far, the regulatory solution has been to legislate, but the efforts have been rather useless due to the international nature of the Internet.

Most worrying, the report calculates that during the period of study, they counted more than 6 million machines infected by bots. This is particularly tied to the problem of spam, as infected machines are taken over to serve unsolicited messages. A global army of six million zombies can do a lot of damage, and guess what? It is doing a lot of damage! The report does not call for regulatory solutions, but for technical ones. The proposed solution to the bot problem could be for ISPs to filter known bot traffic, which would considerably hinder the network. One problem with this is that the bot-owners will start changing their traffic patterns, and maybe even encrypting communications.

I may be feeling bleak today, but this report depressed me. *Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts*

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chronicle of a suit foretold

There have been plenty of reports and commentary on Viacom v YouTube and Google, the mother of all copyright infringement suits at a whooping $1 billion USD. I didn't want to comment on it until I got the chance to read the complaint. Google is being sued for pretty much the full monty. We have direct infringement of the exclusive rights to public performance, public display and reproduction of owned content. We have inducement (in accordance to MGM v Grokster), and if that was not enough, we also have contributory and vicarious infringement. In paragraph 30, the plaintiffs state:

"Defendants encourage individuals to upload videos to the YouTube site, where YouTube makes them available for immediate viewing by members of the public free of charge. Although YouTube touts itself as a service for sharing home videos, the well-known reality of YouTube’s business is far different. YouTube has filled its library with entire episodes and movies and significant segments of popular copyrighted programming from Plaintiffs and other copyright owners, that neither YouTube nor the users who submit the works are licensed to use in this manner. Because YouTube users contribute pirated copyrighted works to YouTube by the thousands, including those owned by Plaintiffs, the videos “deliver[ed]” by YouTube include a vast unauthorized collection of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted audiovisual works."
What every pundit in the mainstream media and the blogosphere has been talking about is, just how good is Viacom's case? At first glance, the case seems pretty strong. After all, everybody knows that YouTube offers infringing materials. However, when one looks further, the case begins to evaporate. I had written already about this topic when YouTube got sued before by a content owner in that occasion I was not convinced of the strength of the case, and I am not convinced now. The problem for content owners is that the Grokster inducement test would not apply to YOuTube as it does not advertise or promote infringement in any way. When users sign-up for a YouTube account, they agree on click-wrap terms of use that clearly leave all responsibility of ownership with the person submitting the video. The relevant clause reads:
"In connection with User Submissions, you further agree that you will not: (i) submit material that is copyrighted, protected by trade secret or otherwise subject to third party proprietary rights, including privacy and publicity rights, unless you are the owner of such rights or have permission from their rightful owner to post the material and to grant YouTube all of the license rights granted herein; (ii) publish falsehoods or misrepresentations that could damage YouTube or any third party; (iii) submit material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, libelous, threatening, pornographic, harassing, hateful, racially or ethnically offensive, or encourages conduct that would be considered a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability, violate any law, or is otherwise inappropriate; (iv) post advertisements or solicitations of business: (v) impersonate another person. YouTube does not endorse any User Submission or any opinion, recommendation, or advice expressed therein, and YouTube expressly disclaims any and all liability in connection with User Submissions. YouTube does not permit copyright infringing activities and infringement of intellectual property rights on its Website, and YouTube will remove all Content and User Submissions if properly notified that such Content or User Submission infringes on another's intellectual property rights. YouTube reserves the right to remove Content and User Submissions without prior notice. YouTube will also terminate a User's access to its Website, if they are determined to be a repeat infringer. "
This would seem to be enough to protect YouTube and Google from intermediary liability. After all, the DMCA provides Safe Harbor exceptions for intermediary services that allows clear copyright policies and inform content providers of clear take-down procedures. Looking at the Safe Harbor requirements, it seems clear that YouTube is protected by such. This opinion seems to be shared by others.

Why is Viacom doing this is there is a clear chance that they will lose? It could be the clash between old and new media. It could be an attempt to buy into the market through aggressive litigation. It could truly be misplaced trust in misguided and archaic copyright policies. What seems certain is that Viacom will become a name to inspire hatred amongst geekdom. Expect some hacktivists to threaten its assets.

On a side note, I find it rather funny that Mia Garlick managed to join Google on the same week that they get sued for $1 billion USD. Wish you had stayed at Creative Commons Mia?

On another side note, I'm aware that I have broken my New Year's resolution not to use snowclones.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

SCRIPT-ed books for review

The following books are available for review for SCRIPT-ed. As usual, they're allocated on a first-come, first-served basis:

  • The Copy/South Research Group, The Copy/South Dossier - Issues in the economics, politics, and ideology of copyright in the global South, April 2006.
  • Aurora Plomer, The Law and Ethics of Medical Research: International Bioethics and Human Rights.
  • Francesco Franconi (ed.), Biotechnologies and International Human Rights.
  • Fiona Macmillan (ed.), New Directions in Copyright Law, Vol. 4.
  • Zeinab Karake Shalhoub and Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, The Diffusion of E-commerce in Developing Economies: A resource- ased approach.
  • Lesley Hitchens, Broadcasting Pluralism and Diversity: A comparative study of policy and regulations.
  • Han Somsen (ed.), The Regulatory Challenge of Biotechnology: Human genetics, food and patents.
  • Uma Suthersanen, Graham Dutfield and Kit Boey Chow (eds.), Innovation without Patents: Harnessing the creative spirit in a diverse world.
  • Bartha Maria Knoppers (ed.), Genomics and Public Health: legal and socio-ethical perspective.
Contact me if you are interested.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alternative DVD anti-piracy ad

(via Ashley Theunissen) Are you bored of that annoying anti-piracy ad at the start of your DVD? You know, the one you cannot fast-forward?

Check out this alternative editing

Monday, March 12, 2007

BitTorrent and traffic shaping

One of the problems of moving house is getting new providers for all kinds of services. Choosing a new broadband provider is a worry, particularly if you were happy with your old ISP. Telewest (now Virgin Media) were pretty good in general, even despite the fact that they were too quick to disconnect my web space and to get rid of all my files the very second after mys subscription ran out. Now I am with BT, and while I have been quite happy with some features of their service (free wireless roaming hours, yay!), I have found to my surprise that they seem to cap BitTorrent transfers. I found to my dismay that I could not get a BitTorrent load exceeding 30 kbps.

How could BT do this? And why? Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of traffic shaping. Even the most conservative estimates tell us that BitTorrent traffic makes up for 30% of all bandwidth used in the world at any given time. At peak hours, some have estimated the figure to go as high as 55%. This is a large chunk of very expensive bandwidth. Some ISPs have decided to regulate this by applying traffic shaping rules that will provide caps on the bandwidth allocated to P2P traffic, particularly BitTorrent. One Quality of Service (QoS, talk about euphemisms!) software provider describes the traffic shaping done by their software like this:

QoS ClassProtocolsPriorityGuaranteedMaximum
VOIPSIP, H323, Skype, MSN MessengerHigh1Mbit/s
P2PeMule, EDonkey, KaZaA, Gnutella, BitTorrent, Direct ConnectLow 256Kbit/s
SHELLssh, telnetHigh
BULKftp, smtpLow

This assigns a 256 kbps to all P2P traffic, which is very low indeed.

Should ISPs get away with this? Trying to see their point of view, one could argue that ISPs are entitled to make sure they provide an adequate service to all their users at all times, and that a few people using a large percentage of bandwidth to download their next episode of Lost is not a particularly efficient way to allocate resources. However, ISPs make a big point in their advertisement about how fast they are, and how you can get 8 mbps, or even 16 mbps in their ultra-fast network. Who are they trying to entice with these offers of speed? P2P traffic of course! After all, you don't need 16 mbps to read the email from Auntie Rita. It is highly unlikely that people will use it to download cookie recipes either.

So, if I pay BT a premium price for their fast connection, I very much expect to get top download speed for whatever protocol I choose to use. It should also be pointed out yet again that BitTorrent is used to share legitimate content. I downlaoded both OpenOffice and Open SuSE Linux with the protocol. Also, we must not forget "legitimate" file-sharing. After all, content providers keep advertising that we will be able to download movies in the future. Will these also be affected? Probably not, as most of this traffic will be offered through proprietary systems, like iTunes, or through sanctioned broadband systems like Cache Logic's Velocix.

So, what to do? Should I just sit and take the slow BitTorrent bandwidth? No way! There's always a technological solution for every technological attempt to regulate technology. Armed with encouraging previous experiences that someone somewhere will have an answer, I was able to find out that the best solution is to turn on encrypted connections in the BitTorrent client (in my case Azureus). This will not cover all downloads as the sending client needs to have encryption turned on as well, but it will drastically improve download speeds (from 30 kbps for three torrent files to almost 200 kbps). Most moderns clients will have encryption turned on.

So, if you are moving house, check out the list of "Bad ISPs" (BT is not listed, funnily enough).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Open source Tories

(Via David Berry) The Conservative Party has turned open source, according to their website:

"Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has promised that an incoming Conservative government would create a level playing field for open source software in the UK, in a move which could save taxpayers more than £600 million a year.
In a speech at the Royal Society of Arts, he also announced the appointment of Mark Thompson, of the Judge Business School at Cambridge University, to advise the Party on how to make Britain the open source leader in Europe.
Mr Osborne reckoned that opening up the market in software would enable the Government to slash 5 per cent off Whitehall's annual IT bill, because open software allows users to read, change and improve its code, in contrast to proprietary software where a company controls the source code."
While my initial thought was to type ZOMG!1, many people in the CC-Community list have pointed out that a lot of open source ideals and philosophies come from the right. Eric Raymond is a vocal libertarian, check out his page on firearms.

Friday, March 09, 2007

MMORPG bubble bursting

One of the most traumatic events for the fledgling field of IT Law was the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001, when the artificially inflated electronic commerce market suffered a re-adjustment and a crash to weed out all of the pretenders and irrelevant market dwellers, producing some of the landscape that we see today.

The BBC reports on the potential for another bubble forming in the MMORPG market, with large media corporations moving in to copy the success of World of Warcraft, and other similar games (City of Heroes pictured). According to the report, several games are offering their own brand of MMORPG without really understanding the marketplace. According to one of those interviewed, there's a lot of silly money sloshing around in the online games environment.

I see this as a potentially similar event to the dot-com bubble. I believe that the amount of press awarded to WoW and Second Life is disproportionate to their real importance. Yes, many people are playing, and many people have signed up to Second Life. But let's be honest, SL is a glorified chat room, and its economic importance has been inflated. Similarly, the MMORPG market is limited, as it is geared towards the serious gamer for its long-term survival, and the supply of geeks is limited.

Now, where did I put my City of Heroes activation code?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Trouble with jurisdiction

While listening to the excellent podcast Digital Planet from the BBC, I heard a horror story about the problems of regulating cyberspace. While just a couple of days ago I sounded rather optimistic about the prospects of regulating online environments, this story lays bare some of the real problems of enforcing some specific practices conducted online.

The story commented on the case of an anonymous worker from a company that is peripherally related to animal testing. His personal details were posted in an American activist website, and since then he has been the subject of constant harassment, abuse, vandalism and death threats. With the UK government's clamp-down on animal protesters in full force, many illegal activities have moved abroad, particularly online activism. Sites like Bite Back, based in the USA, provide propaganda for the activities of the Animal Liberation Front and other organisations. Some of those sites have been posting the personal address and personal details of all sorts of people. The problem for the targets is the lack of regulation with regards to personal privacy in the United States.

Imagine you were the target of such an attack. What would you do? The answer is: not much. While posting personal details on a website would definitely contravene Data Protection in the UK (and Europe in general), this is not the case in the U.S., where most of these sites are protected by the First Amendment. If there is a criminal offence being committed in the UK, then the Crown Prosecution Service could seek extradition, but I wonder if the American judiciary would be willing to enforce such a request as the opposing values are privacy vs freedom of speech.

Funnily enough (in a perverse way), if we were talking about copyright infringement, the site would remain open only as long as you can say DMCA.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Open source patenting

The peer-to-patent project is almost ready to go live, reports the Washington Post. For those unfamiliar with this initiative, the peer-to-patent system was proposed by New York Law School Professor Beth Simone Noveck in this paper. If we agree that the American patent system is broken, and reading some of the literature out there it is hard to argue that it is not, then one has to find solutions for viable reform. Noveck's suggestion places the emphasis on the examination part of things, and not so much on substantial reforms to existing legislation, which makes it an attractive solution because it's cheap and easy to implement. Noveck suggests to use a model of peer-review of patent applications by making them available online and open for comment. Following open source and wiki principles, experts will analyse and comment on patent applications to uncover prior-art and to comment on the innovative value of an application. Paraphrasing Linus Law, with more eyeballs, superfluous claims are shallow.

Surprisingly, the idea has caught on, perhaps because it has found the favour of almost all parties involved in the American patent debate. The project has found favour with the big technology companies like IBM and Microsoft, and also with open source developers such as Red Hat. Now the Peer-to-Patent site is open, and the pilot is set to start soon (with an announcement to be made March 12).

If anything, this proves that somebody listens to legal academics from time to time.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Enforcing Creative Commons (Part Deux)

I mentioned some time ago that my blog was being copied and used in a splog. As the content was used to farm Google Adwords, I felt that this was done in breach of the terms of the Creative Commons licence I use. I started the process of sending a DMCA notice of take down, but I never got around to it, it always felt wrong (or even hypocritical) for me to use something which I otherwise despise.

Fortunately, the sploggers involved have been probably getting in trouble with their host, and so they have started offering a link to take-down content. While I was suspicious about it, I decided to send a request. What do you know? All of the content has been removed!

Anyway, this has got me thinking about the regulation of online content, and I feel that this is further proof for the growth of alternative online regulation, the growth in a bottom-up approach to regulating content that bypasses legislation and the courts, and has put in place a very effective norm-setting system, enforced by the users. Granted, this system does not work against things like spam, but I believe that most practices have some form of regulation in the shape of community enforcement of some sort (not vigilantism, mind).

So, we now have ethical sploggers. What's next? Cuddly porn lords?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Virtual spam

I've received one piece of blog comment spam, and as a matter of policy I deleted it. However, I have removed the links and I have felt compelled to keep it for posterity:

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Saturday, March 03, 2007


So, you are a member of the religious right in the United States. You go online to find information to defeat those heathen atheists and their plot to subvert the youth by teaching the evils of Evolutionary theory. But what do you find? Wikipedia is biased against Creationism and the right!

What do you do? You found Conservapedia, a place where home-schoolers can get their biblical facts straight without Euro-pinko-lefty-contamination. Conservapedia, where the entry on dinosaurs reads:

"Because the term only came into use in the 19th century, the Bible obviously does not use the word "dinosaur." However, they are alleged to be mentioned in numerous places throughout the biblical account. For example, the behemoth in Job and the leviathan in Isaiah are sometimes said to be references to dinosaurs."
The entire entry on France reads: "A country in Europe. Thrived during the middle ages. The capitol is Paris, France, which was founded in the Middle Ages."

Inspired stuff. Jimmy Wales must be trembling as we speak.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Joyce Hatto scandal: iTunes and plagiarism

The world of classical music has been shaken by the Joyce Hatto scandal. For those unaware of the affair, Joyce Hatto was a pianist whose career was cut short in the 1970's due to cancer. However, in 1989 she started recording again and producing CDs with her husband's independent record label. When she died in 2006, The Guardian pronounced her "one of the greatest pianists Britain has ever produced".

Unfortunately, she was not the great one, her husband's recording capabilities were. It seems like all her output since 1989 had been copied from other artists. How was the trick discovered? Through iTunes of course! Tipped by readers, music magazine Gramophone tested several of Hatto's CDs on the database, only to discover that iTunes recognised them as being recorded from other artists. iTunes believed that the first CD was from Laszlo Simon, while the second had been the work of Yefim Bronfman. After the deception had been uncovered, William Barrington-Coupe, the guilty widower, admitted to it.

How did iTunes recognise the original? iTunes uses Gracenote's CDDB, a database which enables third party applications to identify individual CDs so that it can automatically discover cover art, artist, title and label. CDDB is powerful enough that it will identify songs without metadata if they are in the same correct order and have the same length as the original. This is because CDDB creates a unique fingerprint of each CD on the database called a 'discid'. This contains information about the CD's song order, length and other data. It seems like Mr Barrington-Coupe's error was to copy the CDs as they were instead of mixing them a bit.

As any amateur CD-ripper knows, CDDB will not identify your own compilations.