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Music biz backs anti-Napster MP3 sniffer-outer

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Updated The music industry today gave its backing to software that allows punters to do its dirty work for it.

The software, called Songbird, allows users to search for songs on the Napster network (you have to be a registered Napster user to perform the search). It is aimed at copyright owners who want to see which of their songs are being shared.

That said, we're not entirely sure what use it will be. Songbird's developer, Media Enforcer, says the code "allows its users to search all of the Napster servers for specific artist and track combinations.

"In addition, the 'Search variations' option allows users to find popular spelling variations (eg. Pig Latin) of Artist and/or Song Title information. Songbird displays and, when selected, records the User Name, Date/Time and File information of files that meet the user's search criteria."

At the end of the day it's basically a filename-based search system and as comprehensive as it is, it will always be one or two steps behind the latest conventions file-sharers are using to disguise the names of the songs they're distributing.

Songbird is free, but we note that Media Enforcer is very quick to try and sell you a $50 upgraded version that will also search Gnutella and adds movies and other digital media to the list of searcheable files.

The upgrade also provides users with sharers' IP addresses plus "all available information from the network" - a thorny privacy issue the music industry was keen to avoid with Songbird, we understand.

Meanwhile, says the Songbird FAQ: "Songbird searches tracks one at a time, which means that it would take a very long time to do multiple searches of different tracks."

That makes the software less useful to Napster users trying to track down specific files themselves, but we can't help wonder if they're the ones who will use the most.

As for copyright owners who do find their music distributed without permission, Songbird will provide them with the evidence they need. But they'll still need to contact Napster and persuade it to filter out their music. It's a start, we guess...

But then, as the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which is also backing Songbird, says, it's as much about educating musicians, music publishers and other copyright owners about what's going on on Napster. ®

Related Link

Songbird can be downloaded here It's a Windows app, but Linux and MacOS versions are on there way and should be released in two weeks' time.

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