C|Net News has an article about the RIAA touting Audible Magic's P2P filtering technology in Washington, D.C. and other influential venues (File-swap 'killer' grabs attention). Audible's technology is basically an audio fingerprinting service that checks against a database of copyrighted works. Installed in P2P software, the system would ostensibly prevent the sharing of music that had been identified as copyrighted. However, even if we assume the technology works as advertised, there are a number of problems.
[Audible Magic is] not really filtering on a decentralized P2P system. That's a decentralized P2P system that requires each user to access a centralized point of control in order to be on the network. Can such a network protect users' anonymity and be robust to targeted attacks in ways necessary to enable legitimate uses and speech? Not like Freenet can. No matter how many times the RIAA says that this would simply be KaZaA without the infringing files, with no other consequences, that doesn't make it the truth.
Derek is very right to declaim the need for forcing centralization on decentralized networks. Unfortunately, most P2P networks aren't truly decentralized. KaZaA has many centralized features already. For example, the free version is ad-supported, which means that your "decentralized" KaZaA P2P software has to talk to a centralized ad server, in this case, GAIN Publishing. GAIN is more famously known as "Gator" and likes to sue people for calling GAIN "spyware" (See you later, anti-Gators?). Even the premium pay version ("KaZaA Plus") has many centralized features, such as virus protection, Peer Points Manager, and others.
Freenet is truly decentralized, but most of the commercial P2P systems are not. Indeed, I wonder how any commercial P2P network can be viable without some centralized functions. This is not to say I think it reasonable for Congress or the courts to impose such systems on commercial P2P networks, but simply that the imposition of such systems won't change their nature.
Techdirt argues that people will use encryption to escape a government mandate and foil Audible Magic (RIAA's Latest Tactic To Drive File Sharers Underground). I'm not sure that is the case, unless the files are encrypted on the hard drive. The fingerprinting will have to take place at the local uploader's system, which is then checked against the centralized database. Encrypting transfers will not thwart that initial check. Encrypted transfers will only work to thwart man-in-the-middle attempts at filtering. Techdirt is right, however, that such a move would push people farther into darknets (they would be using software that doesn't comply with the mandates). As Techdirt says, "This isn't a business strategy, it's death-by-bad-lawyers."
The biggest problem with the Audible Magic is that the level of government control required to implement it would give pause to even Hollywood friendly congress critters.