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Sony Frees Entire Music Catalog on PlayLouder ISP
August 23, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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There are plenty of "legal" P2P networks, or pseudo networks abound. You have MashBoxx, which sells DRM tracks while connecting to various P2P networks. You have iMesh, which also connects to various P2P networks and sells DRM tracks. Of course you have PeerImpact, which allows the uploading and downloading of DRM tracks on their closed P2P network.

But have any of these networks truly caught on? Are people flocking to AltNet to grab the latest Jessica Simpson track? Has the P2P community broken down the gates of iMesh demanding to engage in "legal" file-sharing? The jury remains divided on that issue.

If someone is truly afraid of the RIAA or simply wishes to avoid walking the legal tight ropes attached to P2P, iTunes has undoubtedly become the service of choice for millions. With more than a half billion downloads and a 70%-plus market share, iTunes is the standard of authorized downloading.

However the P2P community continues to prosper and proliferate. RIAA and MPAA enforcement actions have little effect on the people's desire to participate on these free networks, especially for music files. Although movie files are much easier to distribute today, music files continue to be the undisputed file of choice as 74.4% of all files (by number) are music files.

So where does this leave the big four music labels? There's an old saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

And barring no unexpected surprises, it appears Sony Music may be gearing up for such a venture. Before jumping for joy, here are the details...

Sony Music has teamed up with a British ISP named "PlayLouder MSP." PlayLouder has dubbed itself "the first music ISP", and claims to have optimized their broadband network for file distribution.

Here's where it gets interesting. For £26.99 a month, customers of PLayLouder can share Sony Music's entire catalog. Want to share Ogg Vorbis files? Unprotected MP3s? AACs? Apparently, this is absolutely no problem; share them as much as you wish.

"PLMSP offers its subscribers a true and undiluted P2P experience, unlike recently announced services such as Mashboxx, iMesh and Peer Impact, which simply provide a download shop attached to a P2P network."

Sounds like fighting words. How does PlayLouder offer a "true and undiluted P2P experience"? According to PlayLouder's fact sheet, the individual can share on ANY P2P network he or she wishes. Want to share on LimeWire? No problem. Upload some tracks to FastTrack? Go ahead.

For a cost that is identical to BT's broadband service, one can upload or download as much music from the Sony catalog as desired, in any unprotected file format, with no fear of retribution. Sounds almost too good to be true...

Yes, there is a catch. You can only transfer files within the PlayLouder's ISP network.

"Only an ISP is licensable in this way because only an ISP can control the network itself to prevent P2P traffic from escaping into the internet and only the ISP can monitor the network to ensure that all P2P downloads are accounted for, even those going direct from one user to another."

With this tight control over music distribution, PlayLouder can easily pay royalties to Sony Music. If such controls didn't exist, it would be nearly impossible to control the finances of the network.

"Rights owners receive a pro rata share of these payments to rights owners. In other words, if 40% of all downloads within the PLMSP network are Sony BMG artists then Sony BMG will receive 40% of the pool of money paid to rights owners."

While on the surface this new agreement seems like a tremendous step forward, the fine print does reveal something a bit different. However, if additional ISPs reach agreements with the major labels, the P2P world could see an interesting chain of events unfold. If a majority of ISPs sign on with the major labels, interconnecting agreements could be made so that file transfers could go outside of an ISP's network yet still pay royalties to the major labels.

But then who would be in control of P2P networking?

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Authorized Music Store :: Other

You can read the press release here.

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