November 16, 2004 4:00 AM PST

Music rebels seek to tame P2P

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The overall technology is designed to plug into other software or services and identify songs that are being swapped on a network, sources familiar with the company say. In a peer-to-peer network, a piece of software using Fanning's technology would have to get authorization from Snocap before downloading a song, for example.

Sources said Snocap itself is not a filter, although some in the record industry see it as proof that existing file-trading networks can have copyright-friendly filters applied to them, blocking unauthorized transmissions. Services that use Snocap's technology will not be allowed to have pirated material swapped alongside the authorized versions of songs.

Snocap itself will offer a range of different services to record companies and other customers, including the creation of a "warehouse" of authorized music that can help "seed" peer-to-peer networks with content.

Record executives say they are also interested in a feature that will track peer-to-peer requests for songs that aren't yet licensed for digital distribution. That will help them go into their archives and find songs that are out of print that people may want online, one executive said.

The identification and transaction system won't be limited to traditional peer-to-peer networks, sources said. Ordinary Web retailers could use the technology to sell a song online, and let their own customers forward the song to other people. If those people downstream wanted to keep the song, they would also pay for it, with the funds forwarded to the original retailer by Snocap.

The seeds of competition
None of this is likely to eliminate traditional peer-to-peer networks anytime soon, of course. The siren call of free music and movies, even with the associated risk of prosecution from the Recording Industry Association of America or the Motion Picture Association of America, will keep many people coming back to unregulated networks like Kazaa and eDonkey.

But a few services will likely pop up early next year. Rosso has been widely reported to be in talks with SonyBMG, although sources say no deal has been finalized. Sources familiar with the project say Mashboxx is likely to provide low-quality versions of music to sample, along with Snocap-backed links to purchase high-quality songs, in part tapping into existing file-trading networks for content.

Rosso himself declined to comment on the specifics of his project, or on whether he had already inked any deals with labels. But "it's going to be file-sharing on steroids," he said.

Wayne Chang, the creator of the college-focused peer-to-peer service I2Hub, which now operates in part on the super-high-speed Internet2 network, said he is interested in turning it into an authorized service with the help of Snocap or other similar technology.

The Israel-based iMesh service, which settled a lawsuit with the recording industry earlier this year, has also said it will turn itself into an authorized distribution channel, while retaining its peer-to-peer aspect. But sources familiar with the company said it is likely to use Audible Magic technology rather than Snocap.

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