The reincarnation of Scour Exchange, the file-swapping program
that once rivaled Napster in popularity before facing a lawsuit for alleged
copyright infringement and going bankrupt, is back online.
CenterSpan Communications, the ambitious peer-to-peer company that bought Scour's technological
assets in bankruptcy court
earlier this year, kicked off the
beta program of its legal version of the service Monday. As such, it
becomes one of the most prominent, but far from the only company, to launch
what are increasingly dubbed "legal Napsters."
Scour once was the home of virtually unrestricted trading of videos, music
and images, many of them copyrighted. That was enough to draw the ire of
the movie and recording industry, which sued Scour for contributing to
copyright infringement, helping to drive the company out of business.
CenterSpan's service is designed to ease those copyright holders' fears.
Songs or anything else
distributed inside the new version of the peer-to-peer network will be
protected against further copying using Microsoft's Windows Media software.
And CenterSpan will keep tighter reins on exactly what people are using the
network for, the company says.
"We control what gets in," said Vice President of Marketing Andy Mallinger.
"Then the publisher or content owners can really set a lot of rules on how
the content gets treated."
The network of beta testers will be "seeded" with these songs by a set of
servers hosting the music. As the network develops, individuals will be
able to download the songs from others who have downloaded them first.
The company faces stiff hurdles in its quest to become a legal, financially
successful file-swapping outfit, however. Even Napster itself, with giant
Bertelsmann on board, has been unable to persuade other major labels to
license their music into a file-swapping environment.
CenterSpan also must cross this bridge if it is to be successful.
Executives say they're talking with the major labels but report no deals yet.
"We have had a number of discussions," Mallinger said. "This is obviously a
very important focus for us."