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RIAA drops the dead eDonkey

eDonkey seeks sanctuary, finds knackers' yard

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eDonkey is off to the knackers' yard, after a New York court ruled that the peer-to-peer (P2P) site enabled users to swap copyright material illegally. eDonkey’s owner, New York-based MetaMachine, is ponying up $30m to settle a copyright suit brought by six record companies. MetaMachine has another P2P network, called Overnet, which the NY court also deems illegal.

Metamachine's bosses, Sam Yagan and Jed McCaleb, have been told to stop users from file-swapping through eDonkey 2000 network. And there are still plenty of users around. According to this interesting walk through eDonkey's history, it is "generally accepted that eDonkey2000 has well over four million users at any given time".

Rubbing salt into its own wound, MetaMachine has also turned over eDonkey's front page to RIAA copywriters, who have penned the following.

The eDonkey2000 Network is no longer available.

If you steal music or movies, you are breaking the law.

Courts around the world -- including the United States Supreme Court -- have ruled that businesses and individuals can be prosecuted for illegal downloading.

You are not anonymous when you illegally download copyrighted material.

Your IP address is ********* and has been logged.

Respect the music, download legally.

Charming. Actually, you are anonymous when you download material - until the RIAA subpoenas your ISP, at any rate. So the lesson for determined freeloaders is to indulge in a little IP theft of your own - by tagging your IP address to someone else. For instance, offer PC lessons to an elderly neighbour, preferably very old and very deaf in return for some internet time. Plausible deniability, see?

Freeloaders, to boot

Today's ruling is a major victory for the record labels. Their mouthpiece, the RIAA, has in effect closed or castrated all the major file-sharing networks - with the exceptions of LimeWire and The Pirate Bay. Napster and Kazaa, the most successful "illegals", paid off the RIAA and are now unsuccessful legals. Grokster and WinMX are dead and buried, while BitTorrent made friends with the MPAA, before the MPAA made enemies with BitTorrent.

The developers behind LimeWire, an open source project, will have their day in court soon enough. Last month, the RIAA filed suit against this P2P operator and today RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol namechecked its newest adversary in a eDonkey victory press statement: "Our settlement with eDonkey will make operations such as LimeWire that continue to break the law and profit off the back of stolen copyrighted content all the more conspicuous."

The record labels accuse Mark Gorton and Greg Bildson of LimeWire LLC of exerting "substantial influence" over the software project and of various copyright infringements. At first sight, the charge of "substantial influence" seems eccentric, but this is designed to get at the personal assets of people supposedly protected by corporate limited liability. So far as copyright infringements are concerned, the precedents look poor for the LimeWire fellas.

Of course, people will continue to swap music, games and films through unofficial channels, whatever happens to the P2P operators There is simply too much P2P software out there, and too many people willing to lend their servers to the DarkNet, for this to be stamped out. However, the RIAA and the MPAA will consider that they have won if they turn freeloading from an entertainment for the masses into an esoteric art of the furtive techie. ®

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