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CuteMX unplugs Napster-like service

At least one Napster alternative is temporarily restricting access to its technology, citing concerns over this week's court ruling that could shut down the popular music-swapping service.

At least one Napster alternative has temporarily restricted access to its technology, citing concerns over this week's court ruling that could shut down the popular music-swapping service.

Globalscape said it is restricting public access to its CuteMX file-sharing Court: Shut down Napster service pending a review of further developments surrounding the preliminary ruling in the Napster case. Like Napster, CuteMX allows individuals to find and retrieve files from each other's computers, routing requests through a central server.

"There is a lot of confusion surrounding (this type of) technology, and we don't want to be included in this controversy--particularly as a subsidiary of a publicly traded company," said Globalscape president Sandra Poole-Christal. Globalscape is a subsidiary of American TeleSource International, which trades on the American Stock Exchange.

"We're not rebellious teams or (spending) my uncle's money," she added, in a reference to some competing technologies. Gnutella, a "peer-to-peer" file-sharing technology, was first created as an unauthorized project by a group of developers at America Online subsidiary Nullsoft. At Napster, founder Shawn Fanning's uncle has been involved in the start-up.

The next few weeks will be critical for such alternative file-sharing services, as they scramble to take on Napster refugees and develop legal strategies that take into account Wednesday's ruling. That ruling was only a preliminary injunction in a district court; other judges don't yet have to follow it as a legal guideline. But Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who issued the injunction, is well respected, and her decision to stop song trading on Napster will likely be influential in other courtrooms.

At the most risk are services run by companies such as Scour.net, iMesh and CuteMX, which use a central server to route requests for files. As corporate entities that can be sued, they represent an easy target for the recording industry.

By comparison, the music industry would have a hard time reaching into the thriving networks of individuals using tools such as Gnutella or Freenet, which do not require a central server.

Globalscape is best known for its CuteFTP file transfer software. Poole-Christal said Globalscape considers CuteMX a natural extension of file-sharing technology. She said the company is working to create copyright safeguards with its CuteMX service, although she said copyright holders must ultimately be responsible for protecting their own content.

"I think peer-to-peer file sharing is here to stay," she said. "It brings something new to the Internet, which is...not as interconnected as people think. This technology is going to open the door wide open to personal content created at the desktop level."