October 14, 2003 8:30 PM PDT

Grokster chief heads to Spanish P2P firm

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The head of file-swapping company Grokster, Wayne Rosso, has resigned from his post and will take the helm of younger Spanish peer-to-peer technology rival Blubster.

Rosso has long been one of the most colorfully outspoken executives in the file-trading world, known for comparing recording industry executives to Josef Stalin and the fight over digital file trading to the Vietnam War protests.

But in recent months, he's also taken issue with the market leadership of Kazaa parent Sharman Networks and the FastTrack file-swapping technology, which his own company originally licensed to launch Grokster.

As head of Blubster parent Optisoft, he'll take on Sharman and FastTrack more directly, licensing the fast-growing, newer technology to other file-swapping companies in hopes of creating a new giant, he said.

"We've got our sights on FastTrack," said Rosso, who held the title of president of Grokster. "We want to knock them off, and we think we can."

Rosso, largely through flights of well-placed rhetorical excess, has given Grokster a public profile that exceeds its relatively small share of the file-sharing download market.

But that profile was solidified when the company won a key legal battle in April, where a federal judge ruled for the first time that companies that offered software tools for file-sharing, as opposed to operating networks directly as Napster once did, were not responsible for copyright infringement that took place using the software. Record labels and movie studios have appealed that decision, but the ruling gave new optimism to demoralized peer-to-peer developers.

Optisoft and Blubster are largely the creation of Pablo Soto, a 23-year-old Madrid programmer who has muscular dystrophy. Soto created the technology with an aim to eliminate many of the networking inefficiencies of previous generations of file-swapping services, while greatly improving people's privacy.

As the Recording Industry Association of America prepared to file lawsuits against individual file swappers this summer, Blubster touted its technology's ability to shield its users from prying legal eyes. However, at least one Blubster user was included in the RIAA's lawsuits.

Optisoft and Blubster have already begun the process of building a network that rivals the FastTrack technology, which is used by Kazaa, Grokster and iMesh, and reaches tens of millions of people. According to Download.com, a software aggregation service operated by News.com publisher CNET Networks, Blubster has been downloaded more than 3.9 million times. Piolet and RockItNet, two newer software programs, also tap the same network.

Rosso promised that he would be just as vocal in his new position, and he predicted that Optisoft would soon be the target of industry lawsuits.

"I will continue fighting for the rights of the little guy," he said.

 

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