Where Do They Find These Guys?

Tom's Hardware Guide: Tom's Hard News:

The record companies' next witness in the trial, Professor Leon Sterling, Adacel chair of software innovation and engineering, University of Melbourne, has filed two affidavits on his examination of Kazaa Media Desktop (KMD) documents.

In the affidavits, filed in court Tuesday morning, Sterling claimed that whether a system was managed centrally or peer-to-peer was only a design detail, not a technically significant characteristic.

Assuming this report is accurate — never a certainty — you have to wonder what planet this guy is living on. P2P vs. central server is no mere design detail. It's an entirely different philosophy.

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3 Responses to Where Do They Find These Guys?

  1. He also admitted that “he has not downloaded or used the Kazaa software” and “he hasn’t thought about how long or how practical it will be to implement the suggestions he raised”. His source of information about the program? “He only ‘got a sense of what would be possible with the system’ by going through Kazaa’s online guide.”

    Despite (or perhaps because of) this failure to look into the software, Prof. Sterling was happy to speculate as to the state of mind of the authors: “In my view, the designers of Kazaa system intended the use of Kazaa to be the sharing of music files such as MP3 files, as a primary use even if it is not the only use.”

    It is strange that an expert witness could go into court so ill-prepared, yet be allowed to guess as to the motives behind a piece of software he had never run, much less examined in detail.

  2. It gets better:

    “One of the witnesses against Sharman Networks had at one time offered to be an expert witness for the company in the civil trial now taking place in Australia, according to Sharman’s attorney.

    Sharman attorney Mark Lemming revealed on Wednesday an e-mail that University of Melbourne professor Leon Sterling sent to an employee at Sharman. The e-mail stated that Sterling was withdrawing an offer to be an expert witness for Sharman during the civil trial, saying that writing a report requested by Sharman would be “stretching his expertise.”

    During cross-examination, Lemming used the e-mail to question Sterling’s expertise in the trial against the company, which makes the Kazaa peer-to-peer software.

    “Your lack of experience in P2P makes it difficult for you to tell the court of any feasibility for the propositions you mentioned,” Lemming said.”

    (from news.com)

  3. Observer says:

    On the one hand, the probability of misquoting is high. The witness *could* have been trying to distinguish between a design element, which P2P v. central server certainly is, and a externally-observable technical product characteristic, which it may or may not be.

    On the other hand, a CS witness could be this clueless, despite his apparent qualifications. As an example, I once encountered a Stanford CS professor who claimed that O.O. design was trivial and that he advised his grad students not to take those classes.

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