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VCR-like box boasts P2P content at push of button

Dutch company offers home media player designed to give Net users easy access to movies, TV shows from peer-to-peer networks.

A Dutch company is offering a new Linux-based home media player designed to give Internet users easy access to content from a variety of peer-to-peer networks, including BitTorrent and eDonkey.

Called the LamaBox, the VCR-size player is "fully integrated with the Internet, including connection to the big peer-to-peer networks," according to the LamaBox Web site. This, the site says, lets users "choose from an impressive collection of audio and video. The latest movies and television shows, playable on your television at the press of a button."

The device also enables users to burn downloads to DVD.

The fact that the LamaBox is designed to access networks where copyrighted material is routinely shared raises legal issues. But a LamaBox representative denied any wrongdoing and said the device only makes such material accessible, much in the same way Internet providers facilitate access to potentially illegal material.

"The sole responsibility lies with the provider and user of content," said LamaBox.

But if a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision gives any indication of the direction international law will take, the LamaBox could find itself unplugged. This summer, the court ruled that companies that build businesses with the active intent of encouraging copyright infringement should be held liable for their customers' illegal actions.

Currently the LamaBox is set to access BitTorrent, eDonkey, FastTrack (the network used by Kazaa), Gnutella and Overnet. Users can also listen to Internet radio stations and view online video streams.

LamaBox said it has seen a lot of interest from abroad and recently translated its Web site into English.

Because the device is based on Linux, open-source software governed by the GNU Public License, users are allowed to modify the device as they see fit. LamaBox currently delivers several hand-built models: The cheapest one has 40GB of storage and costs 279 euros ($328). A 400GB LamaBox with DVD burner is also available and costs 479 euros ($564).

The LamaBox can hold as much as 1.5 terabytes of information when all three hard drive slots are in use, according to the company. The Linux Advanced Media Application media center uses a modestly powered VIA processor, chosen to minimize heat generation and the subsequent need for noisy fans.

Lars Pasveer of ZDNet Netherlands reported from The Hague.