The future of Skype, arguably the most popular Internet
telephony program around, could be in jeopardy, due to an ongoing legal battle.Skype

In a quarterly filing, parent company eBay noted it would be
forced to discontinue the service if it loses the right to use part of its
peer-to-peer VOIP (voice over IP) software and can’t find a replacement. As
CNN, which first reported the filing, points out, though, there’s no immediate
danger of Skype going away.

The fight is with a company called Joltid, which claims
Skype broke a licensing agreement to use the software. EBay, predictably, said
it believes it can win the court fight, but it is developing its own
replacement peer-to-peer VOIP as a precaution. There is, of course, no
guarantee that development will be successful.

Beyond the potential shutdown of the company, the legal
fight creates an additional pair of headaches for Skype. EBay has been eager to
spin the company off publicly, with a target of the first part of next year.
Looming legal problems could delay that.

In the meantime, Google is in the midst of a closed beta
test of Google Voice, which will send calls to users' mobile, home and work
phone numbers to a singly number, offer cheap international rates and offer other
features, which could be a threat to Skype regardless of its legal situation.

At present, Skype boasts over 480 million registered users,
who use the service mostly for video and telephone conversations.

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