One of the founders of MP3 file swapping system Napster has set up an online music distribution system that is intended to protect copyright.
Bill Bales, former vice president of business development at Napster, and Adrian Scott, Napster investor and consultant, have set up AppleSoup to enable users to swap any digital files but allow authors to retain and control their intellectual property.
"We have created a next-generation peer-to-peer network which is copyright friendly. It lets content owners lock up their content and control when it can be unlocked," said Scott, who is AppleSoup's chairman and vice president of engineering.
Like Napster, end users will be able to download client technology which enables them to grab files from the hard drives of other participating end users, but the difference between AppleSoup and Napster is that files are 'locked' and can only be unlocked once users pay a fee or are given permission.
AppleSoup's client software, which will be available from its website in some six weeks' time, will enable copyright holders to keep track of where their content goes.
Scott said AppleSoup will not deal with music files because of the founders' continued investment in Napster but suggested that the MP3 file directory supplier could be interested in using its technology as a way of resolving its dispute with the US recording industry, although no formal talks are underway.
Napster has been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for alleged copyright infringement.
AppleSoup will compete with Gnutella, another file sharing technology which also deals with a wide range of digital file types, not only music. However, some critics believe that Gnutella is more dangerous than Napster because members are not identified through a central server and so can remain anonymous.
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