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Lime Wire launches legal content portal

It's not all dodgy Metallica CD rips, you know

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Peer-to-peer software provider Lime Wire has launched a 'legal download' portal, in a bid to make it easier for its users to find content they are authorised to download.

Lime Wire's MagnetMix content portal uses a URL-style location system to pin-point content on the Gnutella network. Content owners who want their material - be it audio tracks, video, photography, written content, a game or other software - can submit the source of their material to the portal.

For content owners, it's a way of making their material rise out of the morass of illegally shared songs and pirated DVDs - something that's hard to do even if you host your material on the network yourself. The other option would be to offer your material on your web site, but this way you potentially get closer to your audience.

Lime Wire, meanwhile, shows itself to be promoting the use of P2P for legitimate purposes rather than the dodgy ones for which it and its ilk are infamous. At launch, MagnetMix was only able to offer maybe a handful of items in each category, little of it compelling or not widely available from other download sites. But Lime Wire no doubt hopes that content owners will begin adding material in earnest, now the service is up and running.

Of course, the snag is that by emphasising what they are allowed to give away - out-of-copyright novels, unsigned bands' demo tracks, royalty free photos, and so on - Lime Wire is highlighting the fact that almost all of the good stuff on offer, the contents that's worth having, isn't legal.

And is downloading the complete works of Shakespeare from Gnutella any better than taking it from Project Gutenberg? Or downloading a software update or shareware tool via MagnetMix any better than getting it from the manufacturer or downloads.com?

No, it's not, and that's the problem Lime Wire and co. face trying to build a solid business out of P2P. Only by providing a large enough collection of legal content can they persuade us that the $20 they charge for the ad-free version of their client apps - or the revenue they make from ad sales - isn't ultimately being made on the back of illegal content swaps. But in doing so they de-emphasise exactly what differentiates them from all other legitimate download services. ®

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