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Fanning “Reformed”?

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Napster is comingback in the form of a pay music download service from Roxio. It appears Shawn Fanning is back as well, now selling copyright recognition software to the labels:

    Napster creator Shawn Fanning is looking for backers of technology he’s developing that would let file-sharing networks distribute music without violating copyrights, people familiar with the project said.

    Fanning’s technology would recognize copyrighted songs on a network and let the copyright owners set a price for downloading them.

    ….Regardless of whether the gambit works, it demonstrates that 22-year-old Fanning has moved beyond the service that made him a household name. Yet Fanning, who lives in the Bay Area and declined to be interviewed, is still trying to shape the future of the music industry — this time by working with his onetime competitors.

    Fanning’s new program relies on audio fingerprinting that identifies every song being offered by users on a file-sharing network. As the user submits the song, it would be checked against a database at Fanning’s firm to see whether it is copyrighted. If it is, the song couldn’t be distributed without payment.

    ….Fanning has been acting as a consultant for Roxio while also pursuing his new file-sharing venture independently. Record-company executives say Fanning has been making the rounds of the major labels in recent weeks, demonstrating his technology and urging them to invest in and endorse his system.

    If they do, he has told the labels, he would ask Kazaa and other leading peer-to-peer networks to sign on as well.

    “It’s fantastic, but it only works if Kazaa goes along with it,” said one label executive who asked not to be named. He said his label was impressed with Fanning’s demonstration and is reviewing the proposal.

    Spokesmen for the companies distributing Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster, three leading file-sharing programs, said they hadn’t been contacted by Fanning and weren’t familiar with his efforts.

    ….There are a number of strategic hurdles to the plan, including the concern that if Kazaa opts in to the system, its rivals might not. Without a uniform approach among the file-sharing networks, users might simply migrate to networks that don’t block unauthorized copying.

    Another issue is that it would be up to the labels to claim ownership of each track, and they may claim greater rights than they are entitled to or rights that are subject to dispute. Many songs have multiple rights holders, depending on who wrote the composition and who performed it, and the labels and the artists signed to them have frequent ownership disagreements. [LA Times]

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