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P2Pers: we can make file-sharing secure and outsell iTunes

New Heart waxing yields 2000 song sales

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In a bid to persuade the music industry that P2P networks can encourage legal file-sharing, P2P companies today claimed that more people have bought tracks from Heart's new album, 'Jupiter's Darling', via the likes of Grokster, Morpheus and Kazaa than through Apple's iTunes Music Store.

So far, the album's 16 songs have yielded 2000 sales via the P2P, more than iTunes has. Of course, the P2Pers don't provide an iTunes sales figure, which could easily be as high as 1999 and they'd still be able to make the claim. And don't forget that there are many, many more P2P users out there than ITMS customers.

Some 30,000 CDs have also been sold, but again there's no data yet on how many illegal copies of the disc's songs have also been distributed.

The legal versions are distribute in WMA format wrapped within the Weed DRM system. Weed allows downloaders to play any given song three times before they must pay up or lose the ability to play that track. Payment is made via PayPal.

Weed files can be shared, and anyone who grabs a shared-but-paid-for song then coughs up the 50c to $1 charged for the song ensures 20 per cent of the proceeds go to the person who paid before. Previous sharers get ten per cent and five per cent, going down the chain. Artists get 50 per cent of the sale price and Weed developer Shared Media Licensing gets the remaining 15 per cent.

This isn't the first time someone has come up with a way to make P2P file-sharing legal and to make it pay, but it's clearly an important step in the right direction. One example doesn't prove P2P is a better sales mechanism that ITMS or Napster, but it shows the potential if labels and artists allow tracks to be distributed this way.

Few, we suspect, will be willing to do so, however, while so many unauthorised copies of their songs are being batted around the Internet via the P2P networks. The move by Heart and its label, Sovereign Artists - the glory days at major label EMI/Capitol seem a long way away - is bold and shows at least one industry party attempting to create a legal P2P distribution system in the hope that it encourages an end to the illegal sharing.

We wish them luck, but our feeling is there's going to have to be a lot more content distributed this way before the dodgy stuff diminishes. Frankly, it's not going to happen until P2P networks actively block the sharing of content that has not been authorised by the copyright holder to be distributed that way. That's what Israeli P2Per iMesh has agreed to do, albeit under immense legal pressure from the Recording Industry Ass. of America. ®

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