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eDonkey Settles for $30 Million
September 12, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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MetaMachine, the company behind the eDonkey client, has long been a staple of the P2P community. Before there was eMule, before there was BitTorrent, and way before ThePirateBay, the dominating source of information was via the eDonkey client.

This story began in 2002, shortly after the fall of Napster. During this time, P2P development in the United States was a superfluous affair. Dozens, if not close to a hundred various P2P companies of all shapes and sizes began populating the American landscape. One of those companies was MetaMachine, based in the city of New York.

MetaMachine was led by two ambitious and talented individuals, Sam Yagan and Jed McCaleb. Together they forged the eDonkey client; a revolutionary application that changed the way large files were traded online. The eDonkey client connected to the eDonkey2000 network. At the time of its launch, it was a small and fledgling network with little in the way of content. Also, the P2P landscape was dominated by FastTrack, which carried an adequate supply of videos and large files.

But eDonkey succeed where FastTrack failed. eDonkey’s technology was light years ahead of FastTrack in its ability to transfer large files. Similarly to BitTorrent, eDonkey broke large files into small segments and created micro-swarms which greatly enhanced the efficiency of file-transfers. eDonkey also allowed independent operators to establish their own indexing servers, which scattered the eDonkey2000 network throughout the globe. A more decentralized version of the network, dubbed Overnet, was another great step forward for P2P. However people’s attachment to centralized communities never allowed for this advanced network to supplant eDonkey2000 – rather it functioned to supplement it.

eDonkey also took advantage of indexing websites. Such websites contained verified links, or hash links, which nearly guaranteed a successful and accurate download. The same could not be said for FastTrack, which was quickly coming known for corrupt and false files. Massive indexing sites such as ShareReactor, ShareConnector and the web-independent RazorBack were the de facto standards of the eDonkey2000 network.

Although BitTorrent would soon become the largest file-sharing network in terms of bandwidth consumption, eDonkey2000 never faded away. Its uncanny ability to locate rare and odd files has never quiet been replaced. Even today, many nations around the world prefer eDonkey2000 over any other network. Although exact numbers are difficult to place on P2P networks, it is generally accepted that eDoneky2000 has well over 4 million users at any given time.

However eDonkey2000’s longevity under MetaMachine was not to be. In June of 2005, after a lengthy battle throughout the United States court system, the entertainment industry finally achieved the intrinsic victory it has fought so long to achieve. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court remanded the MGM vs. Grokster case back to the lower courts. The Supreme Court stated that file-sharing developers could be sued for copyright infringement if they induced such behavior. The specific definition of “induce” has yet to be defined by the lower courts; however decision sparked a domino effect in the P2P community. In September of 2005, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) sent several commercial P2P developers cease and desist letters, demanding they prevent their users from infringing on their member company’s copyrights.

"We demand that you immediately cease-and-desist from enabling and inducing the infringement of RIAA member sound recordings. If you wish to discuss pre-litigation resolution of these claims against you, please contact us immediately."

One by one, the vanguard of the commercial P2P industry fell. Grokster, BearShare, WinMX, and iMesh settled. The notable exception was Ares Galaxy, who’s sole developer Alberto Treves opened the source to his client and network.

MetaMachine’s Sam Yagan also indicated his intention to comply. Testifying before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, Sam Yagan stated that he believed the RIAA’s interpretation of the Supreme Court decision was incorrect, but he simply did not have the funds necessary to defend his network and client. With no other recourse available to him, he conceded defeat.

“…I am not here as an active participant in the future of P2P, but rather as one who has thrown in his towel and with no interest in replaying past issues…” Yagan stated.

In the months that followed that September testimony, little appeared to happen on the eDonkey2000 website. Curiously, there were even hints from developer Jeb McCaleb that a new version was in the works. Any hope of this however is now long dashed, as the end of the eDonkey client is now at hand. On September 11, eDonkey users were greeted with the following pop-up message from their client:

"The eDonkey2000 client is no longer available. See eDonkey2000.com for details."

Few details were available until later today, when an all too familiar message appeared on the eDonkey2000 homepage:

“The eDonkey2000 Network is no longer available. If you steal music or movies, you are breaking the law. Courts around the world - including the United States Supreme Court - have ruled that businesses and individuals can be prosecuted for illegal downloading.

“You are not anonymous when you illegally download copyrighted material. Your IP address is XX.XXX.XXX.XX and has been logged. Respect the music, download legally. Goodbye Everyone.”

A similar message appeared during Grokster’s banishment; and similarly the IP address of the visiting computer was published. This of course is little more than a fear tactic designed to insight a sense of vulnerability – as visiting eDonkey2000.com is not illegal.

But now eDonkey2000.com is gone, as MetaMachine has settled officially with the entertainment industry for $30 million (US.) According to the settlement agreement, which was made available to Slyck.com, there doesn't appear to be much of a future in the file-sharing realm for eDonkey or MetaMachine.

[The defendants...] shall be permanently enjoined and restrained from directly, indirectly, contributory or vicariously infringing in any many any copyright in any and all sound recording and other copyrighted works..."

[The defendants...] shall be permanently enjoined and restrained from directly or indirectly, or assisting in or supporting the operation of, any copter server or website, or distributing any software, in any way related to the eDonkey System or Software or any other peer to peer or file-trading network or their network, service or medium [that encourages copyright infringement.]

[The defendants...] shall be permanently enjoined and restrained from directly or indirectly releasing [the eDonkey source code or technology.]

The defendants are also prohibited from selling or transferring any significant part of the MetaMachine business or other assets without the consent of the Court, as well as waive their right to appeal.

While MetaMachine's future in unknown, the creation that Sam Yagan and Jed McCaleb manifested is anything but destroyed. eDonkey is just one client that connects to the eDonkey2000 network. Although the eDonkey client is officially annihilated, it comprised of only a small market share of this network – at most only 10%.

Instead, the open source and open community client eMule is the true spear head of the eDonkey2000 network. With a market share of now 100%, most eDonkey2000 fans will continue on with their daily routine as if nothing ever happened.

MetaMachine’s gift to the file-sharing world won’t be forgotten. Millions of file-sharers who participate on this network can tip their hat to the people who’ve made it possible.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
eDonkey2000 :: eDonkey
Legal/Courtroom :: Other Lawsuits

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