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Bringing P2P in from the cold

Chris Castle catches up with El Reg

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The Snocap mountain

After Napster, you joined Shawn Fanning's next venture Snocap. With Snocap you tried to bring these P2P services like Kazaa in from the cold. What happened? What went wrong?

The labels all agreed to do it and probably would have allowed some unlicensed to pass through Snocap because Snocap was an ever-cleansing system, meaning that it learned about new copyrights all the time. We got very little uptake with P2P operators, though. I honestly don’t think that these people intended to operate a real music service. They seemed far more interested in running a few servers and making some advertising money just to show they could do it.

The EFF all want to paint labels as this monolithic, Luddite group. But they were willing to try, for a short period as an experiment to see what a self-cleansing system looked like.

So there is a solution for illegal file bartering but it doesn't depend on this magic wand approach to making something legal that isn't legal.

There's been talk of one country going it alone and legalising P2P - France almost did.

If one economic actor - particularly in the North - decides to do something like this, they discover they can't. The leakage would be enormous. Yes, the French tried to do this in 2006, but it was just a joke. Every user would have learned French!

These services form where people want to get stuff for free. The approach is - all those users are there. They're reachable. That was the whole point of the Big Switch concept with Napster -  going legal. Let's take advantage of all those people who like us and are connected and are largely music fans - the hacker boy side, the spyware distributors hadn't come into the picure yet yet.

But when we tried to get some P2P people to sign up, "There's no money in it".

Yeah, that's right. There's "no money" in it because you've done everything you can to drive the music business into the ground. You should step up and be the hero that some of these misguided people think you are. And these P2P operators looked like little teenage boys who had suddenly realized they weren't going to drive the car this weekend.

I asked one of them - can you raise your hand and swear to God that there are no bad things on your system? No snuff films, no child pornography? You're providing a way for crazy people to link to each other with little likelihood of being caught. If you don't distance yourself - then someone is going to hang the sign around your neck. And he was scared to death.

They had this crazy idea that they weren't accountable to anybody. They also thought they were going to dictate the price to the record companies. Uh, no. See, what's you're doing is illegal. I-L-L-E-G-A-L.  Snocap was ready to do business with all these guys and help them come into from the cold. |

Did none of them want to co-operate on building a legit P2P?

Wayne Rosso did. He tried really hard. That's late 2005, I guess. But there was an equity bubble going on - the cash was there. Why didn't somebody from outside the record business, an investor, step up? I don't get it.

Snocap had visionary investors. “Visionary investor” is an endangered species in the music business. These days, if a VC is presented with a chance to invest in a real-time data company or a music project, which do you think they will take? Not the music project. Why is that?

It's because there has been such a lack of effort on behalf of governments to extend market rules that are in the physical world into the online world. When the investor is saying it's too risky, he's saying “Where's the market place?" But the contours of the market rules are not enforced.

I'm not a fan of disconnecting anybody - there's other things you can do. But the importance of three strikes (especially Hadopi in France) is that it is the first attempt to establish market boundaries for copyrighted works online.

We already do some technical measures, and have for years. We geoblock some of these West African spam factories - we reroute them through Canada but they come back. So Governments have a serious role, here.

The most basic, fundamental duty of government is to protect citizens from harm – not to mention the human rights protections that artists have in UN treaties and covenants that they have all signed. Until Hadopi, none of them were doing that. ®

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