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Appeared on: Sunday, June 19, 2005
P2P sites prepare legit bows

With a Supreme Court ruling in the Grokster case believed to be imminent, proponents of commercial peer-to-peer networks are busily preparing new legitimate services.

Key to many of the developing services is the readiness of Snocap, the fledgling copyright management and P2P filtering service from Napster founder Shawn Fanning. Among Snocap clients on the horizon is Mashboxx, a planned legitimate P2P offering from former Grokster frontman Wayne Rosso. That service plans to enter the market sometime after the High Court's ruling.

Rosso told Billboard he hopes to begin beta testing of Mashboxx within a matter of weeks. The service is collecting e-mail addresses for its test. Snocap is intended to help guide users of Mashboxx and other P2P networks to legitimate content registered with the filtering service. It also blocks users from distributing or accessing unlicensed or unrecognized files.

Snocap also aims to build content catalogs by capturing digital "fingerprints" of live, rare and unreleased works that users are attempting to share. The information will be reported to content owners with the goal of helping labels prioritize which music should be cleared for sale, Fanning explained.


In the meantime, the company has quietly inked digital-fingerprinting deals with more than a dozen indie labels and distributors, including TVT, Ryko Group, Digital Musicworks International, Artemis Records, Nettwerk Records and the Independent Online Distribution Alliance.

That is on top of major-label deals with Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and EMI. Negotiations with Warner Music Group are ongoing. Snocap wants to expand the universe of content it represents by opening its digital registry to all labels and artists. The move is likely to have the biggest impact on individual artists and small-catalog owners, who can now ensure that their content is legitimately distributed alongside more mass-market offerings in P2P environments that will ultimately use Snocap's technology.

Snocap executives told Billboard that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, they see themselves positioned to capitalize from the ruling. A ruling in favor of the music industry is likely to expedite the process of existing P2P operators attempting to convert to legitimate offerings, many of which would be potential Snocap clients.

A ruling in support of P2P networks is likely to mean even more label spoofing tactics and other anti-piracy strategies that compromise the quality of P2P search results. In that scenario, P2P operators looking to offer their users a better experience may turn to commercial solutions

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