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Warner Expands Authorized P2P Lineup
January 30, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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In the ongoing effort to convert customers from free P2P and file-sharing networks, two distinguishable fronts have opened. Leading the sole charge on one front is the iTune's video store, which relies on a centralized server to provide desired files. The other front revolves around the "authorized P2P" concept. Much like free P2P networks, these controlled environments attempt to reproduce the file-sharing experience.

Pay P2P networks are hardly anything new. One of the first pay P2P networks, Altnet, began accompanying the FastTrack community back in 2003. Others began sneaking their way in, such as PeerImpact which started beta testing in 2004 and went public in August of 2005.

Subsequent to the June 2005 Supreme Court decision which remanded the MGM vs. Grokster case to the lower courts, the authorized P2P effort has increased markedly. Whether forced by the music or movie industries, long time free P2P networks such as iMesh have transitioned to a pay service. Although it still uses some memory of P2P networking, its future appears to rely heavily on its recent partnership with MusicNet.

Other long standing free P2P icons such as StreamCast (Morpheus), Sharman Networks (Kazaa), LimeWire, and MetaMachine (eDonkey), are all in various stages of either seeking licensing agreements or other payment options with the music and movie industries. There's also Wayne Rosso's MashBoxx, the growingly phantom pay P2P network that recently bought the property rights to the now defunct Grokster.

Another effort brought forth is the more realistic GNAB P2P network. GNAB is file-sharing network conceived by German media giant Bertelsmann-BMG while the technology behind it is provided by sister company Arvato Mobile. The technology behind GNAB works similarly to many other forms of file-sharing. The end users initially connects to a centralized server which controls who can enter the network and indexes available files, while coordinating the associated billing information if a purchase is made. Other operations of the network are P2P oriented and rely on swarming technology similar in nature to BitTorrent. Because of this highly efficient form of file transportation, especially for large files, Bertelsmann can pass the bandwidth costs onto ISPs rather than maintaining a large centralized network.

Like most other pay P2P networks, there’s been considerable talk but little action. Because of timely negotiating delays with content owners, the service has been in limbo since its official announcement in November of 2005. Since then however, more content owners have signaled their readiness to participate. Notably, large-scale music label EMI recently inked a deal with Bertelsmann and Arvato, licensing over 300,000 songs. However if GNAB has any hope of competing with the rapidly expanding iTunes video store, it has to expand its horizons beyond music.

And expansion is exactly what the Bertelsmann and Arvato team have in mind. In an announcement made today, Warner Brothers is reporting the upcoming launch of their In2Movies program. In2Movies is an initiative aimed at bringing a substantial number of mainstream Hollywood movies and TV programming to consumers. Much like a BitTorrent tracker, the end user will initiate the download via the In2Movies website. From there, the download will be coordinated by GNAB technology. Presumably there will be numerous seeded files established to ensure reliable downloads when In2Movies launches. Considering Bertelsmann’s geographical location, local German programming will also be available.

At this time, Warner Brothers has not yet specified In2Movies’ pricing structure. The files will be protected with Microsoft DRM, although the consumer can keep the movie for life. While irrelevant to hard core file-traders, they have made the right move by allowing ownership rather than rental. Yet this is only one small step pay P2P establishments have taken in their ultimate goal of converting the P2P masses – a goal that may never be reached.

Pay, or “authorized” P2P networks are currently having trouble gaining traction. The concept is a clash of philosophies, a rupture in the perceived balance between the availability source of free content and pay content. Many netizens who are familiar with P2P technology simply reject pay P2P networks as a result. However, an increasing number are more willing to accept the iTunes stores as a source of pay material as it offers a more seamless integration between the iPod and reality. Pay P2P networks have their work cut out for them as Apple’s recent video expansion aims to make iTunes and free file-sharing the only viable methods for obtaining videos online.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Authorized P2P :: Other
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Reviews

You can read the press release here.

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