July 15, 2003 1:08 PM PDT
Grokster unleashes ad-free software
Consumers who want to use the software will have to fork over $19.99 for the ad-free experience.
Popular peer-to-peer software services such as Grokster and Kazaa have attracted millions of people through free downloads, which let them offer and access songs and other MP3 files without paying. But users of the services have long griped about the annoying pop-ups that greet them when they search for music.
Grokster said it was responding to some of those complaints.
"We can offer the user a better experience at a reasonable price that still allows us to pay our bills," Grokster President Wayne Rosso said in a statement.
The move comes as rival StreamCast Networks also released a new version of its Morpheus software that attempts to help people mask their identities by uploading and downloading files through proxy servers.
Both companies have been bolstered by a ruling in April, in which a federal judge said they were not responsible for the actions of file traders who used their software. The companies had been the target of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which said the file-swapping services were violating copyright laws by allowing people to trade major label music without paying.
Changing course, the RIAA has threatened to sue the people using the services to swap files, and last month it began an evidence-gathering campaign to identify people who offer music through Grokster, Morpheus and others.
A survey released Monday said the RIAA's legal threats seem to be deterring people from swapping music. Nielsen/NetRatings said the use of the top file-trading applications has declined by about 15 percent since late June, when the RIAA issued its warning, although StreamCast said it hasn't seen a drop and Kazaa has said its numbers have increased.