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 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."