posted Aug 08, 2000

Publius Home Page Boundary Breakers8/8/2000; 2:01:03 PM Publius has apparently started working.Technical details:'Our system consists of publishers who post Publius content to the web, servers who host random-looking content, and retrievers who browse Publius content on the web. At present the system supports any static content such as HTML pages, images, and other files such as postscript, pdf, etc. Javascript also works. We assume that there is a static, system-wide list of available servers. Publius content is encrypted by the publisher and spread over some of the web servers. In our current system, the set of servers is static. The publisher takes the key, K that is used to encrypt the file and splits it into n shares, such that any k of them can reproduce the original K, but k-1 give no hints as to the key. Each server receives the encrypted Publius content and one of the shares. At this point, the server has no idea what it is hosting -- it simply stores some random looking data. To browse content, a retriever must get the encrypted Publius content from some server and k of the shares. Mechanisms are in place to detect if the content has been tampered with. The publishing process produces a special URL that is used to recover the data and the shares. The published content is cryptographically tied to the URL, so that any modification to the content or the URL results in the retriever being unable to find the information, or a failed verification. In addition to the publishing mechanism, we provide a way 'Or, to simplify, a piece of content is broken into some number of pieces, where you need some smaller number of pieces to reassemble it, but each of those pieces look totally random, as does the result if you try to re-assemble too few pieces.From the C|Net announcement, 'Because it allows free distribution of files online, without any checks by copyright owners or law enforcement, Publius has been talked about in the same breath as Napster, Gnutella and Freenet. 'But the designers hope this won't be the focus for the system and have built in a few safeguards. 'At least in its first release, the system will accept documents only 100 kilobytes in size--much too small to accept an MP3 or video file. 'And unlike Napster, the Publius system does not have a search feature. Easy searches are partly what have made file-sharing systems such as Napster so popular so quickly.'Again, like FreeNet, this merely systematizes what was already an accomplished fact, that a post on the Internet could be untracable, in such a way that it will become possible for the average user to do it, not just the technincally sophisticated ones, so in terms of free speech, it doesn't really change anything.Interestingly, when FreeNet and Publius were announced, there was no loud concern over copyrights at the time, it was all about the 'dangerous speech' aspects. In the post-Napster world, now it's all about copyrights. This is sad, because copyrights are a purely monetary issue; free speech is much more importent in the long run.


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