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Napster founder launches legal P2P service

Bridging the gap between underground and legal music

Napster founder Shawn Fanning has announced a new legal peer-to-peer service with the blessing of Universal Music Group.

The service is described as the first end-to-end solution for online music licensing and copyright management. It offers legitimate and protected digital music downloads using file-sharing technology.

"Snocap envisions a world where consumers can discover, share and purchase music from a massively deep, almost infinite catalogue – constantly updated with new and old releases, live, out-of-print tracks, and more," said Fanning.

He explained: "By giving record labels and artists what they need to deliver their music over any digital platform, including peer-to-peer networks, we are finally realising the full potential of the internet as a source of music for fans everywhere."

Fanning shared his observations on the current state of the developing digital music download industry, saying, "there is still a great divide and consumers are caught in the middle. There are some good authorised online music services but they have limited content and a comparatively small number of users. There are unauthorised services that have content and users orders of magnitude higher, but the service they provide is inferior and they are at odds with rights holders. Snocap is the means to bridge that divide for the consumer."

The company has already reached an agreement with the Universal Music Group to provide technology and database services to distribute that company's entire catalogue.

Universal Music Group's eLabs president Larry Kenswil voiced his support for Fanning's venture: "Snocap presents one of the first real solutions that will bring peer-to-peer consumers a broad array of choices in authorised services."

To use the service, labels must register their music and copyright information in the company's database. Labels and artists can then manage the online distribution of their content using Snocap's copyright management interface, which lets them to set global business rules for each track. In other words, it lets copyright owners manage rights and distribution across multiple online retail locations in one attempt.

The company then makes these legal tracks available to peer-to-peer services for distribution. These are protected by the company's proprietary Content Identification Service. This uses an audio fingerprinting technology the company has licensed from Philips Royal Labs to register, identify and track music. The service can feasibly also be used to let artists and labels distribute rare and unreleased tracks.

The system is scheduled for full deployment in 2005, the company said.

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