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Music on the Down Low
by Andrew Davis

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When Madonna sang 'music makes the people come together,' she didn't know how right she was. Just as Prohibition drove drinkers underground in the roaring '20s, the music industry's crackdown is making all sorts of people come together in what are basically cyberspace speakeasies.

These high-tech Cotton Clubs usually require users to be trusted or at least know someone inside. The files being traded, instead of out in the open, are encrypted— the 21st-century equivalent of hiding bathtub gin under a fake floorboard. Internet file-sharers are operating much like any society that falls under attack. And the very technologies they are using as shields have long been employed by legitimate businesses to protect their data from prying eyes and hackers.

Three years after the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA's) lawyers succeeded in shutting down the Napster file-trading service, the music industry's war against unauthorized digital music distribution is reaping an unintended consequence: better, easier-to-use software for exchanging data securely—and even anonymously—on the Internet.

On the file-swapping front, current favorites Kazaa, Morpheus and iMesh are more decentralized and harder to sue than Napster. They are breeding more sophisticated stepchildren just as the RIAA goes after the swappers themselves with lawsuits filed against alleged file sharers. An upcoming release of the file-sharing program Blubster, for instance, not only makes users more difficult to identify but also seamlessly encodes files before they are transferred and decodes them for the end user.

Another program, called Waste, can be used to set up an encrypted instant-messaging and content-sharing network of up to 50 users. Unlike traditional instant-messaging programs, Waste messages don't pass through a central server.

Waste was pulled by America Online shortly after its release by the company's Nullsoft division, but is still circulating online. So the race is on to improve and simplify advanced security technologies. Beyond programs like Blubster and Waste, there are projects like Freenet, which has been around since 1999. Downloaded nearly 2 million times, it cannot only trade files but also exchange information and spread censored news to places like China.

Sources: Miami Herald; Associated Press.

Sites of the Month:

1. Los Soneros del Swing ( Find out about the Chicago dance group with moves that incorporate Latin, hip-hop, and jazz influences.

Read about upcoming events, look at photos from recent events, and look at pictures of company members.

2. Gay Millionaires Club ( Not to promote materialism, but this site aims to set up millionaires with those who like to, um, be with millionaires.

Peruse client ads, find out what makes a millionaire (I'm going to go out on a limb and say someone with a net value of over ... a million dollars), and even apply to meet Daddy Warbucks.

3. Hire Diversity ( Well, if you don't meet the millionaire of your dreams, there's always this site to help you make your own money.

Claiming to be the leading online service for diversity recruitment, this site has a repository of over 100,000 resumes—and has job listings for you to look through.

4. Welcome to Gay Argentina Sports ( The title's pretty self-explanatory, so I'll just say that you can find out info about various activities, see some intriguing pictures, and contact teams around the world. Two of those teams just happen to be the Chicago Blizzard (e-mail: and the Chicago Spinners (e-mail:

I'm at

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