ZuneScene, a fan site devoted to Microsoft's portable music player, is reporting on a Microsoft patent filing that describes a system for compensating Zune users for sharing music wirelessly.
The idea: if I send you a song, it expires after 3 days or 3 plays, regardless of where I got it from (my own CD collection, a file-sharing network, a Zune Marketplace download). If you decide you like that song and buy it from the Zune Marketplace, I get a small commission--probably points good for buying other songs from the Marketplace.
This isn't news: Engadget reported on it back in November, and the patent filing is from December 2005. But ZuneScene does make one interesting point that earlier commenters missed: this system would allow Microsoft (and content owners) to earn money from the huge traffic of free files on file-sharing sites and elsewhere. Zune applies copy-protection technology to formerly unprotected files, and if users decide to pay the bill, suddenly there's monetary value where there was none before. Sounds pretty appealing for content owners.
It's an interesting idea, and it certainly could help make Zune's sharing features a little less lame--the 3 days/3 plays restriction is a non-starter, but if I get a kickback for sending you a song, I might be a little more inclined to do so. But I haven't heard any confirmation that Microsoft's planning to do this, and I know there's a long list of other features they're considering adding.
For what it's worth, ZuneScene's also reporting that the next-generation Zunes--an 80GB hard drive model and smaller flash-based model--are in production and will go on sale some time in the next couple months. Again, I've heard no confirmation from Microsoft on this, but it makes sense that they'd want to get the next iteration out in time for holiday 2007.