Showbiz embraces secret sharers

Piracy makes strange bedfellows

If you can’t beat ’em, make nice with ’em.

While showbiz continues to work in courts and Congress against peer-to-peer networks that enable piracy, it’s also starting to make some unlikely friends in onetime P2P bad boys Travis Kalanick and Shawn Fanning.

At a Dec. 14 press event, the MPAA was joined by Kalanick, CEO of start-up Red Swoosh, which uses P2P to distribute promotional content for studios online.

The event was to announce civil and criminal actions against the operators of indexing servers that help pirates find movies and music online. Kalanick’s appearance was a surprise to many — and not only because Red Swoosh wasn’t involved in the piracy crackdown. Just four years ago, Kalanick was on the receiving end of a $250 billion lawsuit filed by the MPAA and other media companies.

Suit concerned his previous start-up, Scour, a P2P application that proved popular for music and movie piracy.

Fanning, who created Napster and helped spark the P2P revolution that led to Internet piracy, is now in with the establishment as well. He is a business partner of Universal Music with his new company Snocap, which distributes legal music over P2P.

As studios and labels move into the world of digital distribution, the frequent accusation that they’re anti-technology is a label they can ill afford. Hence the effort to make new friends.

“Before, the media industry feared and vilified P2P, but today it’s seeing that there are good uses,” observes Kalanick. “Technologists they used to sue like myself and Shawn Fanning are helping to bridge them into this world.”

It seems the combination of a PR crisis and new business opportunities can help even the bitterest of enemies learn to get along.

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