Napster founder goes legit on P2P

Fanning's Snocap first partnering with Universal

After years as the No. 1 enemy of the recording industry, Napster founder Shawn Fanning is launching a company with hopes of taking peer-to-peer networks legit.

Snocap will work with music labels and P2P companies to turn pirated music into files that can be sold on terms set by the copyright owner.

Snocap’s first partner is Universal Music, which will register its library with the new company.

Snocap will identify Universal’s songs on P2P networks it has signed up and transform illegal files into legal ones that can be sold or streamed via subscription. The P2P company and Snocap will each get a cut before funds are distributed back to the content owner.

Snocap has yet to sign up any major P2P networks as partners, though execs said they are in talks with them all.

But while startup company is hoping Universal will help it gain legitimacy and momentum in the marketplace, most of U’s music, as well as that of other major labels, is already available from iTunes and its competitors.

Sno job

Snocap hopes it will be able to work with the millions of independently owned songs that are on P2P but not distributed through music stores.

“This system creates an environment where the amount of legitimate content accessible can meet consumers’ expectations for P2P,” explained Fanning, citing the broader libraries available on P2P compared to iTunes as a major advantage.

P2P’s other advantage — no cost — won’t disappear with Snocap, though, as only those networks that sign up with the startup will turn pirated files into legal music.

Fanning admitted that networks offering pirated content will continue to exist despite efforts to offer legit alternatives or shut them down.

Snocap is one of several new companies hoping to turn P2P into a legit biz. Startup Mashboxx is set to launch in January and will allow users to download files for free before offering them payment options to keep the file after they have listened to it. Company is reportedly partnering with Grokster, one of the most popular P2P networks, and Sony Music, although it hasn’t revealed details beyond its January launch date.

Snocap is looking to sign up more content and P2P partners before launching sometime in 2005.

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