The Critical 'I'

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Monday, October 27, 2003

MIT'S FILESWAPPING ALTERNATIVE
Much like a couple of college kids launched Napster from humble roots to create the fileswapping morass we see today, Keith Winstein and Josh Mandel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a peer-to-peer program that's something of cross between fileswapping networks and radio. There are some early high hopes that this approach may be the ticket, at least on college campuses (acknowledged hotbeds of fileswapping users), for satisfying all sides of the online music debate.

The whole thing works by running an end-around on format distinctions. Because the music they're outputting through this service isn't digital, they're not subject to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. In some ways, it's genius:

"I think it's fascinating. As a copyright lawyer, I think they've managed to thread the needle," said Fred Von Lohmann, a lawyer for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. "They've basically managed to cut the record labels out of the equation altogether."


I'll be interested to see how this develops.

Update: It's developed a snag. MIT shut down the service after confusion arose over whether or not a license for broadcasting the music was ever actually granted. Not sure if this is a temporary setback, or the end of this experiment.