The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

File-Sharing Giants Wrestle With Legal Issues

More accurately, the focus now rests on the limitations the University has placed upon downloading. While the University has written these new rules due to moral and legal issues, a representative from the popular program LimeWire insist that the enterprise is completely legal.

Greg Bildson, chief operating officer and chief technology officer for LimeWire, was quick to lay down what he sees as a misunderstanding.

"File-sharing is in no way illegal, but piracy is," he said.

It is this distinction that has his and similar companies confident that the future holds promise for the file-transfer industry.

According to Bildson, there are four main types of services that file transfer companies will be able to offer in the future.

First, they might provide free content -- in other words, non-copyrighted material distributed with full permission of the original artist.

The clients will also have the option of redefining their advertising, which could be similar to that of television and radio. In some cases, free trial software might be included with hopes of selling full products later.

A third choice is subscriber-based content. Content would be filtered to meet the standards of Digital Rights Management, which manages the restrictions placed on copyrighted material. Some providers have already begun offering this service.

Pay-per-view content is the final possibility.

Each of these four services is explicitly designed both to allow users to download files and to keep the level of piracy at a minimum.

According to Bildson, LimeWire has no intention of slowing down. He thinks the company simply has to change with the times.

"The file-sharing business needs to evolve to reach maturity," he said.

Many file-sharing programs didn't start out with the intention of providing free downloading software. For example, LimeWire released its software merely as a way to test the technology the company was developing and as a way to make money through advertising.

"We built the LimeWire client and gave it away for free so that we could influence the future direction of Gnutella protocol evolution," he said.

According to Bildson, the data collected from the program will help pave the way for many new services to come. For example, LimeWire is developing software that will help to create what Bildson calls a "global knowledge network."

"The dynamic search and metadata capabilities could add easy, powerful information retrieval capabilities that could help researchers, academics, businesses and the general public," he said.

Bildson hopes that such a network will eventually surpass common search engines used today, such as Google in terms of users and search features. Furthermore, the network would be completely legal with no possibility of piracy.

For those still trying to find ways to download your music, give up for now.

Despite the claims of LimeWire and other file-sharing companies, music piracy is still a major issue -- but many companies still have a long way to go in correcting it.

The file-sharing industry has reached a critical point in its history. Providers firmly believe that their enterprise is completely legal.

DRM however, is not satisfied as of yet with the steps taken to eliminate music piracy.

The battle is merely in its earliest stage, and the public has no choice but to wait it out.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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